FORT MCDERMITT SHOSHONE PAIUTE TRIBE AND USDA FOREST SERVICE TO BEGIN 2ND COOPERATIVE DOMESTIC HORSE REMOVAL
The Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest will begin to remove tribal members’ privately-owned horses from the Santa Rose Ranger District and return them to their rightful owners. This is the second in a series of operations and could take up to eight days with at least 800 horses expected to be removed.
“Over the past 30 years, the number of unauthorized tribally-owned horses grazing on tribal and public lands increased to more than 2,500 horses,” said Santa Rosa District Ranger Joe Garrotto. “These horses are competing for forage with native wildlife and authorized livestock, overgrazing, harming ecosystems, and damaging fences and stock-watering facilities.”
Tribal Chairman Tildon Smart agrees with the Forest Service about these horses being a major concern. “They are causing safety issues for people driving on public and tribal lands and on U.S. Route 95,” Chairman Smart said. “They are also damaging important tribal natural and cultural resources.”
The removal operations will take place about 75 miles north of Winnemucca, Nevada, on the northern portion of the Santa Rosa Ranger District and adjacent tribal lands. The horses being removed from federally-managed public lands are tribally-owned domestic horses, and are not protected under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. Safeguards have been built into the removal operations plan to ensure that wild horses from the Bureau of Land Management’s Little Owyhee Herd Management Area are not impacted. No wild horses were gathered in a previous removal efforts.
“The Forest Service will retain control of gathered horses until they are delivered to the tribal holding facility, where they will be inspected by a team of Tribal and Nevada State Brand Inspectors and Forest Service Wild Horse Specialists,” said Garrotto. “Forest Service personnel will also be on hand to record the ownership of horses to help with future management.”
Chairman Smart explained that once the horses are removed from federally-managed public lands, tribal members will decide whether to sell or keep their horses and constrain them from further unauthorized grazing. The Tribe is responsible for returning the horses to their owners or arrangement of sale.
“With the help of the Forest Service, we were able to remove more than 500 horses off National Forest System land in December 2018,” added Chairman Smart. “After a recent helicopter survey, we estimate that there are still around 2,000 tribal horses that need to be removed.”
Public viewing is extremely limited since most of the activities will occur on tribal lands. There will be opportunities to view limited helicopter operations on National Forest System (NFS) lands on or around Aug. 7, 2019 provided that it does not jeopardize the safety of the animals, staff or observers, and that it does not disrupt removal operations. There will be no public access to tribal lands
Please contact Public Affairs Staff Officer Erica Hupp at 775-771-4777 prior to the desired viewing date to be added to the attendee list and to receive specific instructions on meeting locations and times. The Forest Service will escort the public to the observation site, which will be difficult to access without a high-clearance four wheel drive vehicle.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers pressured the Agriculture Department today over concerns that the Forest Service could sell dozens of wild horses it's holding at California's Modoc National Forest without first ensuring the purchased animals don't end up in foreign slaughterhouses. Congress has placed restrictions on what the Interior Department and its sub-agencies can do with the West's surplus of wild horses, but not USDA. Now, a group of 64 members of Congress is concerned that the Forest Service could begin the sale of as many as 165 wild horses without restrictions as early as this month.
"We are deeply troubled by this proposal as it represents a severe abdication of the government's responsibility to manage these federally-protected horses humanely," they wrote in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen today.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) organized the letter-writing campaign. Lawmakers signing the letter include House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Paul Cook (R-Calif.), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.). "The Forest Service's proposal would put wild horses at risk of being killed for food, and goes against California's existing law prohibiting the sale or transfer of horses for human consumption," the letter says.
It's not clear if the Forest Service intends to sell any of the wild horses rounded up and removed from the national forest last fall. A spokeswoman could not be reached for comment. About 250 horses that were rounded up last fall were transferred to newly built corrals — called the Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals — on the Modoc site. The Forest Service has said it is considering selling horses that it can't adopt out, and doing so without restrictions on what the buyer is allowed to do with the horses.
These plans were revealed in court filings by Justice Department attorneys defending the Forest Service against a federal lawsuit by advocacy groups challenging last fall's roundup of wild horses and burros.DOJ attorneys argued in one filing, dated Dec. 20, 2018, that the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 "expressly allows" the agency to sell unadopted animals without limitation.
For all practical purposes, that means "the purchaser does not have to certify the uses of the horses," according to the motion opposing a request by animal rights groups that the court issue an injunction against the sale of any of the rounded-up horses. A hearing on that preliminary injunction request before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California is set for this week.
DOJ says in the motion that the Forest Service "would not knowingly sell a horse that goes to slaughter for human consumption." But if the horses cannot be adopted, it says, the service may have to resort to the sale without restrictions. Congress for years has added provisions to Interior Department appropriations bills that forbid the Bureau of Land Management from using euthanasia on healthy horses and burros, and limit its ability to sell animals without restrictions on their future use. But the appropriations language covers only Interior, and thus BLM; the Forest Service operates under the Department of Agriculture.Regardless, the letter signed by the 64 lawmakers says that the appropriations language makes the intent of Congress "abundantly clear."
"To our knowledge, the Forest Service has never attempted to sell wild horses under its authority without restrictions on slaughter," the letter says. "Rather, the agency has abided by the Interior appropriations language and Congress's clear position regarding the humane and appropriate management of federally-protected wild horses."
Source: E&E News by Scott Streater
If passed into federal law, The Safeguard American Food Exports Act would make it illegal to slaughter America's wild and domestic horses on U.S. soil or abroad. CLICK HERE to take action!
DIRECT AND INDIRECT COSTS
Livestock production is not benign. Livestock pollute public waters with their waste. Livestock compact soils reducing infiltration. Their hooves break up biocrusts which hold the soil together and reduce wind erosion. They spread diseases to wildlife, for instance, pneumonia to bighorn sheep. They spread weeds. They eat forage that might otherwise support native herbivores from ground squirrels to elk. They socially displace native animals like elk from the best lands. We kill predators like wolves, cougars, bears, and coyotes to facilitate livestock operations. Fences on public lands block wildlife migrations, and serve a look out posts for avian predators that prey on sage grouse and other endangered species. Grazing can also reduce the capacity of soil to store carbon.
To add insult to injury, we charge ranchers a ridiculously low fee for grazing our public lands. Currently the fee is $1.35 an AUM (animal unit month) or the amount of forage a cow and calf can consume in a month. You could not feed a pet goldfish on $1.35 a month.
Range conservationists also have a financial vested interest in maintaining livestock grazing. If there are no cows or sheep on the land, there is no need for a range con. So, the range conservationists will do just about anything they can to maintain livestock even in the face of tremendous ecological damage. Since it’s not their money, they will propose new grazing management plans, new fencing, more water developments, more range riders, or whatever, to keep livestock on the range when in most cases, simply eliminating livestock is by far the best policy from both an economic and ecological perspective.
GRAZING PERMIT RETIREMENT
However, there is one mechanism that has the potential to free our public lands of the livestock scourge —livestock grazing permit retirement. The way permit retirement works the rancher volunteers to give up their public lands grazing privileges on a specific allotment in exchange for a predetermined amount of funding, The permit retirement is voluntary.
At this point in time the funds for such permit retirement have come from private sources including individuals and foundations, though it would be advantageous if public funding could be part of any legislation. In the past getting legislation that would apply to all public lands has been thwarted by livestock organizations.
The best way to guarantee permeance is to include grazing permit retirement language in any public lands including bill the creation of a new national monuments, national recreation areas, national parks, wilderness, or other similar legislation. For example, the legislation that created the Boulder White Cloud wilderness areas in central Idaho contained a clause authorizing the BLM and Forest Service to accept “donated” grazing permits. The permits would then be “permanently” retired.
One of the reasons this is critical is that permanent retirement gives much greater certainty that no future public lands administer can suddenly reauthorize livestock grazing. If part of a legislative package, it’s important to designate a specific area for grazing permit retirement and to include language that says any allotment that is part of the mapped designated retirement area can be included as well.
In the above example of the Boulder White Cloud legislation, while the total amount of new wilderness was approximately a quarter of a million acres, the mapped footprint for grazing retirement is nearly 750,000 acres. Thus far grazing by livestock as a result of permit retirement has been eliminated on 100,000 acres in the Boulder White Clouds.
Currently there is legislation being reintroduced into Congress to create new public lands designation, including three wilderness bills for California, several wilderness bills in Colorado and the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act that would protect lands in five western states. These and other new land protection designations should all include voluntary grazing permit language.
During the planning process for both BLM and the Forest Service, the public can demand that grazing permit retirement be part of any updated management plans. In the absence of overall legislation that would remove private livestock from all public lands, permit retirement is the best way to gradually extinguish livestock impacts on public lands heritage.