NACO passes horse resolution.

Wild horses rescued from a kill-buyer auction in August 2013  (Photo © Anne Novak)

By Tracie Sulllivan Cross-posted for educational purposes from The Spectrum

CEDAR CITY – In an effort to gather support for recent legislation introduced by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT Iron County), Iron County Commissioner Dave Miller pushed a resolution through last week at the National Association of Counties that sends a resounding message back to Congress — let the states manage their own wild horses.

The resolution, which was also carried by County Commissioner Mark Whitney, Garfield County Commissioner Leland Pollock and Piute County Commissioner Darin Bushman, was unanimously passed by all 3,069 county members of NACo.

“It went through with very little to no debate,” Bushman said. “It was amazing.”

Stewart recently introduced the Wild Horse Oversight Act of 2014, H.R. 5058, that if passed would take jurisdiction from the Bureau of Land Management and give it to the states and Indian Tribes to implement their own management plans for the wild horses and burros according to their specific needs.

In an interview with The Spectrum and Daily News Monday, Stewart said NACo’s resolution will go far to help him in getting H.R. 5058 through Congress.

“It clearly helps us. This resolution was passed unanimously,” Stewart said. “We’re not talking about all conservative Republican counties here that passed it either but many political philosophies, and they all agreed that the states have the right to manage their own wild horses. Some of these counties are controlled by independents and Democrats, so this will help us to build a broad coalition of supporters. I’m very grateful for that.”

The resolution lends support for Stewart’s legislation, calling for the federal government to “give individual states exclusive authority to appropriate herd management levels and dispose of animals that exceed AMLs at state’s discretion, just like States do now for other wildlife species.”

Stewart said while it’s still early in the process, he hasn’t run into any issues with the Congressional delegation. He feels he may even have the support of Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, long a Democratic stalwart.

“I can’t speak for Sen. Harry Reid but the reality is his state has a much bigger problem with the wild horses and even he has expressed frustration with the BLM’s management of the wild horses,” Stewart said.

While at the NACo conference in New Orleans, Miller said he spent time with a few congressional leaders including Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu — who he believes will support efforts to turn the management of the wild horses over to the states.

Read more here

 

An American writes to the BLM against helicopter roundups in Wyoming

 

© Protect Mustangs

© Protect Mustangs

July 16, 2014

Bureau of Land Management
Wyoming — State, District, and Affected Field Offices
Wyoming — Annual Hearing — Use of Helicopters, Motorized Vehicles

Per the standard practice for BLM state offices that administer the Wild Horse and Burro Program to hold an annual hearing on the use of motorized vehicles and aircraft — chiefly helicopters — for counting, capturing, and carting off wild horses and burros, such a meeting has been scheduled for this date in Rock Springs, Wyoming. I regret that I cannot attend the hearing. However, I am submitting information, recommendations, and alternatives as an interested party in behalf of the wild horses of Wyoming. I request that my comments be read aloud at the hearing.
HELICOPTERS — Dangerous to Humans
Scheduled Airliners — Safe; Helicopters — Crash-Prone

The American public considers travel-by-air to be safe, even routine. Crashes are rare, and fatalities, few. Thus, it is easy to assume that all flight is safe, which is not the case.

Helicopters are notorious for crashing. Please compare and contrast Wyoming’s aviation crash-records of scheduled air carriers versus helicopters during the 42-plus years since the passage of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 — the period from January 1, 1972 to May 31, 2014 — per the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB):

Scheduled Air Carriers (“Part 121″)

14 — Accidents and incidents (minor events excluded)
0 — Accidents that resulted in fatalities

Helicopters

113 — Accidents and incidents (minor events excluded)
5 — Accidents that resulted in fatalities
6 — Number of persons that died in those accidents

At the link below, you can replicate the searches to verify these data.

http://www.ntsb.gov/aviationquery/index.aspx

Similarity to Aerial Hunting

In the United States, more than a hundred helicopters and planes have crashed while conducting aerial hunting, whose procedures closely resemble those involved in rounding up wild horses. Just as with BLM gathers, aerial-hunting pilots fly only a few feet off the ground and perform risky maneuvers from which they may not be able to recover.

http://www.commondreams.org/news2008/0422-15.htm

Moreover, the long hours involved, and the frustrations of working with frightened, unpredictable animals, can lead to pilot error. Video documentation is plentiful of helicopter pilots ramming horses and burros with their landing skids, seemingly intentionally.

Helicopter Accident and Incident Record during Wild Horse Roundups

Helicopters have crashed while rounding up wild horses. BLM admits to approximately 10 helicopter accidents and “hard landings” during wild-horse gathers over the past 30 years or so. That’s about one crash every three years. What airline would stay in business with such a safety record?

Using helicopters for gathering wild horses and burros is inherently risky, with no greater purposes than administrative convenience and “efficiency.” Such purposes do not justify the risks. There is no imminent threat to life or property that would require the use of helicopters to roundup some horses. BLM is wrong to continue this dangerous activity when a safe alternative is available — bait trapping.

Helicopter Census Method Puts BLM Personnel at Risk

BLM’s environmental assessments often allude to the use of “multiple experienced observers” (whom I suppose to be BLM staffers) to count and photograph wild horses — or what they think are wild horses — while being flown in grid patterns over the range.

Given the crash-proneness of helicopters, BLM could face a tragedy — with loss of several key personnel, friends, and colleagues in an accident. Counting wild horses does not justify this risky method. Instead, consider bait-and-or-water trapping every member of each herd — without removals. Fit them with telemetry collars, and track them.

Helicopters — Some Recent and Relevant Accidents

1. On February 18, 2013, a helicopter belonging to El Aero Services, Inc. took off from its home-base in Elko, Nevada to perform certain operations on behalf of BLM. The helicopter subsequently crashed near Eureka, Nevada. The pilot was killed. Here is the link to the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) report:

http://www.ntsb.gov/aviationquery/brief2.aspx?ev_id=20130218X22833&ntsbno=WPR13GA128&akey=1

Please note that, on one of the helicopter-runs preceding the crash, BLM’s Helicopter Manager was aboard. Moreover, the NTSB report seems to suggest that the accident may have been caused, at least in part, by pilot-fatigue. Best practices (US Army flight regulations) would have called for reduced “time-on-task” — no more than 37 hours per week, with additional reductions by factors of 1.3 to 1.6 due to low-altitude flight, which is known to be more tiring than higher-altitude flight. The pilot that died flew in excess of those recommendations and, tellingly, the accident happened on the last run of the last day of that long work-week.

2. While the crash referenced above occurred during a seed-dispersal project, the NTSB report discloses that the pilot had experienced a previous accident, on October 18, 2007, … while herding horses in North Dakota. On that day, the pilot was conducting a helicopter-roundup on behalf of the National Park Service. Please see the photographs on pages 4 – 7 of the PowerPoint Presentation, found at the link below.

https://www.iat.gov/Training/modules/2008accidents/DOI_FY_08_A-200_HO.pdf

Per the NTSB report, the probable cause of the 2007 accident was: ‘”The pilot failed to maintain clearance from the fence while maneuvering at low altitude.”‘ The pilot and passenger both suffered minor injuries. The report does not say, but that passenger may well have been a Federal employee. Who was the contractor? Again, it was El Aero Services, Inc. Here is the link to that Probable Cause Report:

http://www.ntsb.gov/aviationquery/brief.aspx?ev_id=20071115X01799

I note that, despite the 2013 tragedy and the 2007 accident, El Aero was recently awarded a $6,000,000 contract for helicopter services relating to the Wild Horse and Burro Program.

3. On April 14, 2014, a helicopter being used by Wildlife Services to locate a radio-tagged Bighorn sheep crashed near Bullfrog, Utah. The pilot and crewmember were seriously injured. Here is the link to the preliminary accident report.

http://www.ntsb.gov/aviationquery/brief.aspx?ev_id=20140429X35951&key=1

Recommendation: Avoid helicopters for counting and gathering wild horses. As they say, the life you save may be your own.

4. On June 29, 2014, a helicopter being used to fly photographers around the Paul, ID area crashed. The pilot and two passengers were injured, and the helicopter was crushed. BLM staffers saw the downed aircraft and responded to the scene to render assistance (leading some onlookers to infer — mistakenly — that it was a BLM aircraft). I am including this event for your consideration because BLM personnel photograph wild-horse bands while taking inventory and when determining population-distribution.

http://magicvalley.com/news/local/injured-in-helicopter-crash-near-paul/article_04b14362-ffe7-11e3-98c2-001a4bcf887a.html

Why Helicopters Crash

Below is the link to the slide presentation Human Factors in Helicopter Accidents that accompanied the keynote address given by NTSB Board Member Robert Sumwalt at the Fifth International Helicopter Safety Symposium.

http://www.ihst.org/portals/54/ihss/Execs_and_Sumwalt/NTSB%20Sumwalt.pdf

Mr. Sumwalt’s talk focused on a crash that occurred in New Mexico during a search-and-rescue flight. Note the similarities between the factors that led to the crash in question and the conditions, standard operating procedures, and observed pilot behavior in BLM helicopter roundups. The factors deemed to have played a significant role in the New Mexico accident included:

Flight conditions

Remote, mountainous terrain
Windy conditions
Twilight, less than 2 hours of daylight

Organizational

Culture that prioritized mission execution at all costs
Weak requirements for risk assessment during the mission
Actions and attitudes detrimental to safety
Lack of a “safety-focused culture”

Pilot

Fatigue
Self-induced pressure to conduct the flight
Situational stress that “… distracted him from identifying and evaluating alternative courses of action”
Inadequate pilot staffing
Personal temperament — “very aggressive, high-speed type”
Long work hours and sleep disruptions due to work-related phone calls at night

BLM Helicopter Roundups Involve Additional Risks

The factors listed above could have been said of most BLM helicopter roundups. However, there are additional risks inherent in a BLM wild-horse gather:

BLM-FS Roundup — Flight Conditions

Low and slow
Desert-type environments — brownout potential
Winter roundups — whiteout potential
Dealing with unpredictable animals
High potential for loss of situational awareness

BLM-FS Roundup — Organizational

Need to stick to the scheduled time-frame for completing the roundup
Pressure to appear to reduce exaggerated estimated herd levels to low-AML
Culture of secrecy and deception regarding helicopter roundup flights
COTR/PI failure to stop the pilot’s pitiless harassment of exhausted horses

BLM-FS Roundup — Pilot

Financial incentive to round up as many horses as fast as possible
Motivation to earn the per-horse fee in addition to the flat-fee for service
Preoccupation, seeming fixation, to capture every last horse
Evident haste to bring the bands in, forcing them to gallop over rough ground
Divided attention — multi-tasking — while monitoring aircraft systems
Showing off, trying to impress onlookers that he has the “right stuff”
Aggressive, relentless prodding and ramming of horses with the landing skids to make them move faster, but often knocking them down instead
Impatience, anger, frustration, recklessness, and vindictiveness reflected in the roundup pilot’s patterns of behavior — egregious emotions that can lead to unwise decisions and result in an accident

How the Bad Behavior Looks

Below is the link to a report that aired on HLN about the recent Jackson Mountains roundup in Nevada. Most of the still-photos are of those operations. There is also video footage from previous roundups, documenting the pilot sadistically ramming animals with the half-ton helicopter’s landing skids, even flipping one little burro upside down. (Once it loads, there’s a 15-second ad, and then the news-clip starts.)
(Run-time: 2 minutes, 54 seconds.)

http://www.hlntv.com/video/2012/06/11/jvm-horse-roundup

Pilot Error — The Cause of Most Helicopter Crashes

According to studies, human error remains the causal factor in 65 to 90 percent of helicopter mishaps. BLM has been gambling that the risky behavior involved in its wild-horse roundups can continue without further disasters. But the odds are against it. Such roundups are tragedies waiting to happen. BLM is negligent in continuing to use helicopters when a safe, superior gather-method is available.

Helicopter Pilots — Would Seem More Qualified, But …

Ironically, helicopter pilots are typically more mature, more experienced, and have higher ratings than the average pilot. They tend to maintain their currency in time and type. Yet despite their seeming advantages, they have more accidents — 46-percent more. If a crash occurred during a helicopter-roundup, the pilot, BLM staff, observers, and the wild horses could be hurt or killed.

Commercial Considerations — Economic Viability Factors

An insightful helicopter-crash study, Root Causes of Helicopter Pilot Error Accidents, which had been posted on the Federal Aviation Administration’s Website, noted that economic pressures also affect the safety of helicopter operations. Helicopter pilots work under financial stress. They strive to maintain high utilization rates, make flights when requested, complete flights as planned, meet schedules, please people, and … make money. I am transmitting a file with the Root Causes report for your reference in addition to my comments.

BLM contract helicopter pilots appear in a big hurry to gather as many horses as quickly as possible, presumably to maximize profits — they are paid a per-horse fee in addition to their flat-fee for service. They push the horses to gallop, even as the band approaches the wings of the corrals. The horses, lathered in sweat and heaving, come to an abrupt halt in the crowded pens, contrary to humane-care standards. However, it must be noted that the entity in charge — BLM — has allowed the pilots to behave in this manner.

Complacency — A Root Cause in 55 Percent of Helicopter Crashes

When a pilot has repetitively — and so far without incident — engaged in an activity that is dangerous, he may become complacent. Such a pilot would lose a sense of the risks that are inherent in what he is doing, becoming casual instead of careful. Boredom may also be a factor. With less vigilance, the pilot relaxes his standards, becomes careless, and puts himself and others at risk. Complacency leads to pilot error. The Root Causes study found complacency (as well as its fellow-traveler, overconfidence) to be a root cause of 55 percent of helicopter accidents. From the observed behavior of the BLM-roundup pilots, it can be inferred that they have become complacent. They appear to have lost awareness of the riskiness of their endeavors.

Here is an anonymous quotation that was included in the Root Causes report:

A Superior Pilot is One Who Stays Out of Trouble By Using Superior Judgment to Avoid Situations That Might Require The Use of Superior Skill.

BLM contract helicopter pilots cannot be said to meet this superior standard.

Helicopters — Subject to Brownouts in the Desert, Whiteouts in the Winter

When helicopters maneuver at low altitude, the rotors’ down-wash may create brownout — conditions of reduced visibility for the pilot due to blowing and recirculating dust and sand. Whiteout is the corresponding phenomenon with snow. Visual cues become obscured, and the horizon can disappear. Brownout can result in spatial disorientation — the pilot loses awareness of the orientation of the helicopter with respect to the earth. Engulfed in a swirl of dust or snow, the pilot might not be able to tell whether the helicopter is flying level or drifting into an object. In the visually-degraded environment of a brownout or whiteout, a helicopter-pilot can become spatially disoriented and crash. BLM personnel may be on board.

Here is the link to a news report on how the Military is studying the problem of brownout.
(Run-time: 1 minute, 41 seconds.)

Here is the link to a video of a police-helicopter landing (safely) in a whiteout.
(Run-time: 1 minute, 15 seconds)

BLM helicopter-roundups have taken place under both brownout and whiteout conditions.

In the Event of an Accident, Rescue Efforts Would Be a Challenge

In a helicopter roundup, the pilot flies off alone looking for bands of horses to bring back from across a herd management area that can encompass many square miles. Should a crash occur in rugged terrain at a remote location, medical help might not get there in time. While the pilot may be willing to accept this risk, surely BLM should not be putting a contractor in situations that could endanger his safety — and his life — merely to round up horses. And surely BLM’s own personnel should not be asked to risk their life to perform a non-emergency job.
HELICOPTERS — Dangerous to Horses
Inhumane Roundup Method

BLM’s use of helicopters to round up the wild horses is inhumane. The horses are terrified by the thunderous, high-intensity noise as they are pursued by the low-flying helicopter. They are blasted with sand, dirt, and gravel from the rotor wash. Panicked by the chaos, they stampede, injure themselves, and become separated from their babies and bandmates. Mares miscarry. Foals become orphans. Many horses die from stress, even more have to be euthanized. Helicopter-style roundups are abusive, especially to foals, older horses, and pregnant mares. This is unacceptable.

As has been documented on video, helicopter pilots conducting these roundups appear in a hurry to gather as many horses as quickly as possible, presumably to maximize profits — they are paid a flat fee plus a per-horse amount. Frustrated by the wild horses’ lack of cooperation and impatient to get them moving faster, the pilots ram the horses with the aircrafts’ landing skids, in some cases even flipping the animals into a somersault. There is video documentation of such abuses, and a court found that they had indeed occurred. There has also been documentation of contractors whipping wild horses in the face, kicking them in the head, dragging them by the neck with ropes, using electric prods on them.

Recommendations: Helicopter-style roundups must be abolished. Roundups in extreme temperatures — either the summer heat or the winter cold — must end. Stampeding horses for countless miles — causing them to lather with sweat and then bringing them to an abrupt halt — must be prohibited. Forcing the horses to run long distances over rough terrain, thereby wrecking the delicate hooves of the newborns and resulting in lameness and even death — must never happen again.

BLM should institute the kind approach to gathering wild horses. Roundups should be done slowly, quietly, and gently using the bait-and-water trapping approach. This method also tends to preserve family unity, which is essential to wild-horse social structure.
HELICOPTERS — Dangerous to the Environment
Possibility of a Post-Crash Fire’s Leading to a Wildfire

The crash of a roundup-helicopter could result in a fuel-spill. Especially in these times of drought, when there is an abundance of dry brush, a wildfire could be sparked. Thus, even the environment is at risk from the use of helicopters to round up wild horses. It bears repeating that, because herd management areas are typically in remote locations, it would be difficult to put out a post-crash fire and keep it from getting out of control.

Potential for Increase in Transmission of West Nile Virus

This year has seen West Nile Virus (WNV) infections among wildlife in Wyoming. According to data submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), WNV infections have been found in mosquitoes, birds, sentinel animals, or veterinary animals.

http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/statsMaps/preliminaryMapsData/activitystatedate.html

Last year, there were at least 13 cases of humans that become infected by WNV, for which there is no vaccine or treatment. One resident of Powell died of WNV.

http://www.powelltribune.com/news/item/11422-powell-man-first-wyoming-resident-to-die-of-west-nile-this-year

Helicopter-stampedes can result in wild horses trampling riparian areas and in so doing, creating stagnant water puddles — conditions ideal for mosquito breeding. The prospect of a helicopter gather increasing the likelihood of WNV outbreaks among wildlife was raised by BLM in a 2012 environmental assessment. BLM was concerned because WNV has been a significant cause of mortality among sage grouse and other bird species. The precautionary principle would call for protecting Wyoming’s residents — both human and avian — from exposure to harm.

Helicopters Emit Exhaust Gases that Contribute to Ozone and PM-10

Aircraft engines “emit water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), small amounts of nitrogen oxides (NOx), hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, sulfur gases, and soot and metal particles formed by the high-temperature combustion of jet fuel during flight.” (Please see the last paragraph on page 2 at link below.)

http://www.af.mil/shared/media/document/afd-051013-001.pdf

The EPA notes that ground-level ozone has many detrimental health effects, which is why it monitors that form of pollution and regulates it. Fuel combustion, transportation, and fugitive dust — all of which are operative in a helicopter roundup — contribute to ozone.

http://epa.gov/air/emissions/basic.htm

Except for one aircraft-services contractor who still flies a B47G-3B-2 helicopter whose reciprocating engine uses 100-octane low lead fuel (100LL), all the other contractors fly turbine-engine helicopters, which use jet fuel. Although basically kerosene, jet fuel contains many additives, except lead. According to one source (link below), in addition to 70 or so proprietary compounds whose identity is withheld as being confidential business information (CBI) and which might even include mercury, here are some of the compounds emitted in the exhaust of combusted jet fuel:

Freon 11, Freon 12, Methyl Bromide, Dichloromethane, cis-l,2-Dichloroethylene, 1,1,1-Trichloro-ethane, Carbon Tetrachloride, Benzene, Trichloroethylene, Toluene, Tetrachloroethene, Ethylbenzene, m,p-Xylene, o-Xylene, Styrene, 1,3,5-Trimethyl-benzene, 1,2,4-Trimethylbenzene, o-Dichlorobenzene, Formaldehyde, Acetaldehyde, Acrolein, Acetone, Propinaldehyde, Crotonaldehyde, Isobutylaldehyde, Methyl Ethyl Ketone, Benzaldehyde, Veraldehyde, Hexanaldehyde, Ethyl Alcohol, Acetone, Isopropyl Alcohol, Methyl Ethyl Ketone, Butane, Isopentane, Pentane, Hexane, Butyl Alcohol, Methyl Isobutyl Ketone, n,n-Dimethyl Acetamide, Dimethyl Disulfide, m-Cresol, 4-Ethyl Toulene, n-Heptaldehyde, Octanal, 1,4-Dioxane, Methyl Phenyl Ketone, Vinyl Acetate, Heptane, Phenol, Octane [referring to the saturated hydrocarbon not the short form of the term "octane rating"], Anthracene, Dimethylnapthalene (isomers), Flouranthene, 1-methylnaphthalene, 2-methylnaphthalene, Naph-thalene, Phenanthrene, Pyrene , Benzo(a)pyrene, 1-nitropyrene, 1,8-dinitropyrene, 1,3-Butadiene, sulfites, nitrites, nitrogen oxide, nitrogen monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen trioxide, nitric acid, sulfur oxides, sulfur dioxide, sulfuric acid, urea, ammonia, carbon monoxide, ozone, particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5).

http://www.lead.org.au/Lanv7n3/L73-4.html

If the piston-engine aircraft is used, pollution also occurs. The 100LL “avgas” fuel, when combusted, emits lead, a dangerous neurotoxin. The EPA advises:

Lead emissions to air undergo dispersion and eventually deposit to surfaces. Lead deposited to soil and water can remain available for uptake by plants, animals and humans for long periods of time.

The EPA further states: “Lead is a persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) pollutant listed among EPA’s 12 priority PBT pollutants.” Please see page 11 at link below.

http://www.epa.gov/ttnchie1/net/tsd_avgas_lead_inventory_2002.pdf

Why would BLM even consider polluting the environment just to round up some horses?

Helicopters and Green-House Gas (GHG) Emissions

At the link below is a compare-and-contrast analysis of the GHG emissions produced by a passenger van versus by a helicopter transporting those same passengers. Interestingly, the aircraft in question, a B206 L4, is a model that one of the contractors uses. From other documents, we know that the roundup helicopter may refuel as many as four times a day. Such a frequency brings its own dangers of pollution from spills.

Bottom line: helicopters use much more fuel and, consequently, release many times the GHGs that a motor vehicle does. Which begs the question: Why would BLM employ such a polluting vehicle to round up equids when safe, humane alternatives are available? In fact, since there is no need for roundups at all, the cost, waste, and pollution are all the more indefensible.

http://www.enn.com/pollution/article/23533

Helicopters and Noise Pollution

An HMA is a designated space for wild horses and burros. It should be a place of peace and quiet. Using helicopters is a violation of that environment, disturbing the peace with the deafening roar of the chopper flying at very low altitude. It is unacceptable to use such a vehicle in a wild-horse area, polluting the environment with high-decibel noise and vibrations.

In its Report to Congress on Nonmilitary Helicopter Urban Noise Study, the Federal Aviation Administration noted that “a helicopter may be much more noticeable than a fixedwing aircraft because of the impulsive blade-slap sound.” Members of the public have a heightened reaction to helicopter-generated, low-frequency noise. This distinct “impulsive” (spontaneous changing) pattern is referred to as the “unique noise character” of helicopters. The FAA’s report explained:

When throbbing occurs at low-frequencies, the actual loudness is greater than that predicted by the equivalent level. Stated another way, even though the equivalent level of a sound may be below the threshold of audibility, the sound is audible.

The report further noted:

Rate of response is defined as the ratio or relative order of magnitude of percent average noticeability comparing two unique sources of noise. In this case, helicopter noise was compared to fixed-wing airplane and train noise. The rate of response function for helicopter sounds grew at three times the rate of response functions found for airplanes and trains. This paper showed that sound noticeability may be a significant variable for predicting human response to noise. The character of the sound was a key ingredient to noticeability. Helicopters, with their distinctive sound character, appeared to be more noticeable than other sounds for the same A-weighted sound exposure level.

http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/policy_guidance/envir_policy/media/04Nov-30-RTC.pdf

Surely, wild horses will be similarly disturbed as well as traumatized by the roar, thunder, and rattle of the helicopter. In addition, they will suffer the brutality of being rammed by the landing skids to prod them into moving faster, as ample video documentation has revealed. Such cruelty took place in plain view of observers with video cameras. Imagine what went on out of their sight and scopes.

Helicopters and Decibel Readings

The following link contains a chart of decibel readings taken by a person that lived near a site in East Hampton, NY where helicopters operated out of the nearby airport. Note that for helicopters flying at “dangerously low, tree-top level,” readings of 85 to 90 decibels were common. Depending on the species, trees can be 30 to 60 feet tall or taller, and the helicopter would have been higher still to be above the tree tops.

http://www.ehhelicopternoise.com/files/Helicopter%20Sound%20Levels.pdf

At the link below, we learn that a Bell J-2A helicopter at 100 feet above ground level (AGL) reaches 100 dB. This reading is similar to those recorded by the private citizen referenced above.

http://www.industrialnoisecontrol.com/comparative-noise-examples.htm

According to another source, the decibel reading for helicopters reaches 105 dB, or louder than a jackhammer. Altitude: 100 feet AGL.

http://stophelipad.org/noise_levels.shtml

The following chart indicates that, at just 85 dB, hearing loss can occur. At 100 dB, the maximum safe exposure time is just 15 minutes. A roundup of a single band of wild horses can take much longer than 15 minutes.

http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/pages/ruler.aspx

At this link, there are more examples of sound levels in various environments.

http://home.earthlink.net/~dnitzer/4HaasEaton/Decibel.html

BLM documents note — and we have seen for ourselves that — when herding equids, the roundup helicopter “would drop as low as 5 or 6 feet when turning the animals.” At this extremely low altitude, the noise level is likely well over 100 decibels, producing pain and suffering that is surely injurious to the acutely sensitive hearing of the equids. Combined with tremendous vibrations and the blasting rotor wash, the process is cruel and pitiless.

It is unacceptable to subject sentient creatures to such torment. America’s wild horses must be handled with care and concern. The agencies’ administrative convenience is the least important consideration.

Helicopters — Adverse Effects on the Wilderness, on the Wildlife

The impacts of using helicopters for roundups include the blowing of soils, injury to plants, and stress and possible injury to wildlife. The noise, pollution, stampeding of wild horses for miles-on-end would negatively impact the environment.
HELICOPTERS — Inappropriate Method for Counting Wild Horses
Aerial Inventories Produce Gross Over-Counts

BLM has also been employing aircraft to conduct inventories of wild horses and burros. However, the aerial method results in significant over-counts, as evidenced by BLM’s reporting of census figures that indicate reproductively-impossible birth-rates.

It is difficult to accurately count mustangs by means of a flyover, hard to tell horses apart and to know for sure that they haven’t been counted already. Due to wild horses’ roving nature — they are known to roam up to 50 miles a day — many instances of counting the same animals is probable. Indeed, wild horses may become particularly mobile, frightened into fleeing the deafening roar of the helicopter used for the flyover. Therefore, it is likely that horses are double-counted, and not per the “direct count” or “mark-resight” or the “simultaneous double-count” methods that BLM touts, but literally by counting many horses twice, perhaps even more than twice. Cows may be mistaken for horses. Deer may inadvertently get counted too.

An aerial inventory also tends to include “rock horses,” which fool the eye particularly when one is high above the landscape in an aircraft traveling at relatively high speeds. Related to this phenomenon is observer fatigue, which sets in after hours in a cramped, stuffy aircraft cabin, confined by seatbelt and crash-helmet, craning one’s neck to peer out the grimy windows, counting and photographing what look like they might be horses. The process repeats. And repeats. It gets tiresome. Airsickness may become an issue. The aircraft contractor and the census-takers know what they are supposed to find: Excess horses. Funds have been budgeted for a roundup, and with government allocations, it’s either “use ‘em or lose ‘em.” Why, even the worst-case modeling projections say there should be excess horses — just like the estimates predicted and the extrapolations seemed to show. So, excess horses are “found.” Confirmation-bias at work.

BLM needs an accurate method of taking inventory. The current approach has proven unreliable. Impossibly-high estimates of wild horse and burro populations have led to unnecessary removals, costly holding, and impaired relations with grazing permit-holders (who become alarmed by reports of a mustang population explosion) and wild-horse-and-burro advocates (who know there cannot be even half the number of mustangs on the range that BLM claims).

Recommendations: BLM-Wyoming should contract the census-taking function to independent experts, ideally ones associated with a university that has a strong animal-sciences program. BLM should research new technologies for remotely tracking wild horses and burros and then procure the system that best serves the purpose. There might even be a way to link the tracking devices to a data-base that would store comprehensive information on each animal. By employing technological approaches to tracking, BLM will secure accurate, reliable data for management purposes, including a complete demographic breakdown of the wild horses and burros in every HMA along with each equid’s genetic profile.

Why Would an Over-Count Be So Bad?

BLM justifies the need for a roundup when it estimates that horses in excess of the “appropriate management level” (AML) populate an HMA and/or have taken up residence outside an HMA. From this estimated population figure, BLM typically subtracts the lower bound of the AML to determine how many horses to remove.

For example, let’s say an HMA’s AML-range is 150 to 200 horses but that now the herd has grown to 300. BLM conducts an aerial inventory but “sees” 500 due to its over-count. It then plans a roundup thusly:

500 — estimated population — 67 percent higher than actual
− 150 — low AML
———–
350 — targeted for removal

BLM assumes the helicopter roundup will achieve a gather “efficiency” of 80 percent. Accordingly, BLM expects that, of the 500 horses it estimates are in residence …

400 — will be captured, of which …
350 — will be removed and
50 — will be released back.

The 100 that supposedly don’t get caught, plus the 50 that are to be released = 150.

The helicopter roundup ensues. Just 300 horses are captured — but they constitute the entire herd. All are removed (“gate-cut”) because the gather seemed to fail to achieve its “efficiency” goal when, in reality, the roundup got 100 percent, thus exceeding the goal and wiping out the herd. BLM assumes that 200 horses cleverly hid and evaded capture, and that they are still on the range, breeding away. In fact, the herd has been rounded up into extinction.

Aircraft Census and Gather Contractors — Apparent Conflict of Interest

The aircraft service providers used by BLM for conducting inventories and roundups know the score — if “excess” horses are found, a roundup will be scheduled and they can make some serious money. Thus, there is motivation to find — or create the appearance of — an over-population.

Doing so would be easy. The same area could be crisscrossed multiple times. BLM staff could easily become disoriented and not be able to tell that they had been over an area already. The horses could be spooked into fleeing outside their HMA, which would accomplish four things inuring to the financial benefit of a helicopter contractor. Scaring the horses and driving them out of the HMA could …

Cause them to be counted twice — once inside, and once outside the HMA,
Gin up the number of horses that appear to populate the HMA,
Automatically target such horses for removal, and
Result in the false appearance of a need for a roundup.

Thus, the helicopter inventory method suggests the appearance of a conflict of interest. The potential conflict pertains to the incentive to increase revenues through generating more billable services and more billable horses.

Recommendations: First, reform the census methods as earlier advised. Then, reform the roundup procedures by abolishing the helicopter-stampede method and instead, employing bait-and-water trapping. These corrective actions will eliminate the conflict of interest.
MOTORIZED VEHICLES — Dangerous to Wild Horses’ Health
Motorized Transport — Long Travel is Cruel, and Results in Illness, Deaths

Helicopters are not the only vehicles of concern. Trucks and trailers transport the gathered horses and burros, first to short-term holding, and eventually to long-term holding in most cases. Which brings up transit time. Prolonged confinement in trailer-travel is bad for horses’ health. BLM’s procedures call for mustangs that are in transit to be offloaded, rested, watered, and fed during journeys lasting more than 24 hours. However, the rest-stop provision may be waived (and probably usually is) if the “stress” of receiving a rest stop is deemed likely greater than the stress of uninterrupted travel. The procedures I’ve reviewed do not reveal who makes this determination or who monitors compliance. It is difficult to envision any scenario that would provide for an easy offloading of wild horses. Are there contract facilities along the way for this purpose? BLM does not say, but probably not. Thus, the supposed provision for humane transport is merely theoretical. The mustangs suffer terribly, since these trips to long-term holding surely take more than 24 hours.

On the “Tips for Traveling with Horses” episode of the “Best of America by Horseback” show that aired on RFD-TV on February 16, 2011, the guest veterinarian advised that horses should not be transported longer than 12 hours. Studies have disclosed a higher incidence of fevers and respiratory infections when travel-time exceeds 12 hours. Thus, there is no doubt that the wild horses, already stressed and crowded together in a cattle-car for more than twice that amount of time, will suffer illnesses as a direct result of the prolonged transport. The extended period in transit may be one reason why mustang fatalities in long-term holding (eight percent) exceed both those that occur in roundups (one percent) and those that take place in short-term holding (five percent).

So, here we have costly roundups, extravagant expenditures of taxpayer funds to ship wild horses around the country when there is room for them right where they are, and an inhumane method of said transport leading to more expenditures for veterinary care due to illnesses brought on by excessive time in transit.

Recommendations: BLM should create a mustang-transport task force to come up with ways of routing horses so that time in transit is always less than 12 hours. The team needs to develop not just procedures but definitive ways of verifying driver compliance. Possibly, electronic tracking mechanisms could be placed on the trailers to monitor location, speed, and other data. Intermediate check-points could be established. Also, BLM needs to devise a way to monitor to ensure contract drivers are operating their truck safely, and in a way that minimizes stress on the horses. Merely having rules and securing assurances are not enough. Trust, but verify.

Too Long Standing Still

There is also a concern about the length of time horses may be kept in trailers that are not moving. BLM’s policy says that wild horses may not be left standing “… for a combined period of greater than three (3) hours.” Crammed into a trailer in the hot sun, three hours is a long time. This provision needs to be reconsidered and reformed.

Recommendations: Total time for the horses to be confined in a trailer without the vehicle being in motion should be limited to 1½ hours. During rest and refueling stops, the trailer should be parked so that it is protected from the elements. Another issue that must be resolved is how to verify and enforce driver-compliance.
HELICOPTERS, MOTORIZED VEHICLES — Costly for Taxpayers
Crunch the Numbers

Expenditures of government funds need to be estimated, evaluated, and justified. BLM-Wyoming must complete an analysis of all costs, both immediate and long-term, of using helicopters and motorized vehicles to round up and cart off horses rather than cart in materials for range-improvements — such as to construct guzzlers. The cost-benefit analysis needs to crunch the numbers to ensure that public funds would be spent prudently. A thorough analysis will bring clarity to the decision-process. Rounding up wild horses generates immediate and on-going, long-term costs. It is an unsustainable approach involving …

Population inventories and monitoring flights via contract helicopter service
A helicopter roundup of a certain number of wild horses
Fertility-control treatments administered to mares
Removal of those horses
Transport of said horses
Short-term holding to prepare horses for adoption, and
Long-term holding for the many horses that are not adopted.

Through crunching the numbers, BLM will likely determine that a better use of its funds — and its helicopters and motorized vehicles — would be for rain-catchment projects. Guzzlers would improve conditions on the range for all water-consumers — livestock, wild horses, and wildlife — for decades to come. Thus, expenditures for such beneficial range improvements would not merely be costs but long-term investments.
BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES
End Helicopter Roundups

I urge BLM-Wyoming to repudiate helicopter roundups and, instead, implement bait-and-water trapping as the method for gathering wild horses. I ask you to take this approach right away.

Helicopter roundups should have ceased long ago. The spectacle of this brutal roundup method being used against the wild horses has horrified the nation. It is in the Agency’s own self-interest to stop incurring negative publicity and casting itself in a bad light. I urge you to reform your methods. End helicopter roundups.

Cruelty-Free Methods — No Helicopters, No Whips, No Electric Prods

I urge the BLM-Wyoming to ban the use of helicopters, whips, and electric prods in gathering and maneuvering wild horses. It is time to implement cruelty-free, whip-free, prod-free operations.

Bait Trapping Only

I urge the BLM-Wyoming to require the use of the kind method of gathering wild horses — bait trapping. This method is a true best management practice. Because bait-trapping has been proven effective, it makes sense to adopt it — after Wyoming’s wild-horse herds substantially exceed the minimum-viable population (MVP) level prescribed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with regard to wild equids.

Recommendations: Use bait trapping exclusively. The goal is for bait-trapping to replace helicopter roundups. Bait-trapping should not be just another method of gathering horses but the method. I urge the BLM-Wyoming to embrace the superior bait-trapping approach.

Bait Trapping and Public Observation — Transparency, Accountability Essential

The public is interested in observing wild-horse roundups. Even though bait trapping is safe and kind to the horses, we wish to see the process in action. But because this method is slower, and requires waiting for the horses to enter a trap, observing in person will be challenging to arrange.

Recommendations: Install real-time video cameras — “caval-cams” — at the trap sites and corrals Live-stream the video on your website. That way, any member of the public can monitor a gather online. Think of the public-relations advantages of video-cams over the current practice of keeping observers unhappily far away from the site. Of course, there may still be some observers that prefer to visit the traps and corrals. That option should still be available. However, it will no longer be a contentious matter. Bait trapping is a gentle process, so most of the safety precautions currently necessary due to the dangers of low-flying helicopters chasing stampeding horses will be eliminated.

Learning the New Method

If Wyoming’s BLM staffers do not feel qualified to conduct bait trapping, there are trained units that could be brought in to do it or to show staff how it is done. Learning something new is an opportunity for personal as well as professional growth. BLM’s Billings Field Office (Montana) eschews helicopters in favor of bait trapping. Externally, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and The Cloud Foundation can refer you to an an expert in water trapping that works with the US Forest Service and, thus, is an approved contractor.

When to Gather

When herds significantly exceed the IUCN population guidelines for sustainable genetic viability, a bait-trapping gather may be necessary. The appropriate time to gather wild horses is in autumn — before the snowfall season. By then, foals are older, and temperatures are cooler. Small-scale, annual fall events will mean fewer horses coming up for adoption, and they will be available just in time for the holidays. The horse adoption market won’t be overwhelmed — as it is now — and fewer mustangs will need to be placed in sanctuaries, preserves, or long-term holding. Such an approach will prove cost-effective, enabling BLM to redirect the budget to rangeland improvements and other purposes.

Trapping, or Entrapment?

BLM has been exploiting alleged complaints from private-property owners of wild-horse trespass to set up capture-corrals on those very properties. The corrals are baited to induce the wild horses to trespass, and when they inevitably do, they are punished with permanent denial of their freedom. This approach is wrong.

Siting bait-traps on private property invites trespass and rewards it, likely provoking even more wild horses to leave their herd management area (HMA) than the few that may have wandered. Further, BLM then uses the private-property location of the traps as an excuse to bar humane observers, thus shrouding agency-operations in secrecy, which raises suspicion as to what you are hiding from the public.

I would also point out the appearance of a conflict of interest — permit-holding ranchers that use the HMAs to graze livestock are often the very ones complaining. By getting rid of the wild horses, they free up more room for their cattle. Some unethical permit-holders may even lure wild horses onto their property for this very reason, thereby giving themselves an unfair competitive advantage.

Recommendations:

1. BLM should install guzzlers and mineral licks well-inside each HMA to encourage the wild horses to remain within the boundaries of their dedicated habitat. If supplemental forage is provided, it must be dropped toward the middle of the HMA. These proactive steps should be taken first. The goal is to draw the mustangs back into the HMA and to give them motives to stay there.

2. Complaints of wild-horse trespass received from permit-holders should be investigated and verified, with the “bring-’em-back-home” measures described above taken as the first response.

3. The perimeters of the HMAs should be fenced, and those fences, maintained.

4. Bait-traps must be sited on BLM land, where public-observation can occur.

Semi-Trucks and Trailers (Big Rigs), and Pickup Trucks

Use such vehicles to cart in materials … such as to haul water during drought, to bring supplemental forage to the wild horses, and to transport construction-materials for the installation of water catchments — guzzlers.

Partnership with Wild-Horse-and-Burro Stakeholders

The Wild Horse and Burro Program is a high-profile / hot-button topic. The Program is national in scope, and is monitored by dedicated advocates. Comments received from the public are beneficial, but consultation-efforts should not end there. BLM-Wyoming needs to cultivate real partnerships and establish good working-relationships with mustang-advocates, particularly with the leaders of the prominent national, state, and local organizations working to protect the interests of wild horses and burros. Representatives of our sector must be formally included in the planning process right from the start and all along the way.

Recommendations: BLM-Wyoming needs to establish an advisory committee of mustang-advocates and work with us to formulate policy — such as how to gather wild horses and burros. I call upon BLM to …

collaborate,
consult,
cooperate, and
coordinate

… with us. Wild-horse advocates across the nation look forward to consensus-based decisions and to the development of best management practices concerning wild horses. As the recent National Academies of Sciences report said: “… management should engage interested and affected parties and also be responsive to public attitudes and preferences. BLM should engage with the public in ways that allow public input to influence agency decisions.”

Value All Comments — Publish All Results — Strive for Consensus

I urge BLM-Wyoming to publish the minutes of the hearing — as you did in 2013 — including the number of persons that participate in the hearing, both those that attend in person and those that submit comments. Show that you value every response on its own merits rather than labeling some as “form letters.” The Constitution provides for the right of citizens to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. The Constitution does not require each complainant to formulate a unique letter. Indeed, the very word “petition” connotes a document that multiple parties sign in agreement and solidarity regarding a particular issue. At court, there are even class-action suits, wherein many plaintiffs join together to seek justice regarding a matter of mutual concern. One action, many parties.

Please report …

How many persons attended the hearing and how many submitted comments,
How many and what percentage favored or opposed helicopters and why,
What different alternatives were proposed, and
What modifications, corrections, improvements will BLM make per the public input.

The process is supposed to build consensus. The public-involvement component is designed to get feedback from those persons interested enough to participate in the planning process. Disregarding feedback leads to decisions that are not supported by the majority of stakeholders.

Recommendations: Each and every comment must be honored fully, individually, and collectively, with the numerical results published.

Show Respect — Provide Ample Time for Comments — Encourage Dialogue

BLM-Wyoming’s 2013 hearing in this regard lasted just 13 minutes! The meeting commenced at 5:30 p.m. and concluded at 5:43 p.m. The six attendees were each allowed a maximum of two (2) minutes to speak. Questions were disallowed. A number of the attendees had traveled from out-of-state to take part in the hearing. By severely limiting the time allowed and by prohibiting questions, BLM showed contempt for these dedicated citizen-taxpayer-advocates and for the public-input process itself.

BLM staff also appeared disrespectful and distrustful of the attendees, seeming to suggest that the participants might become unruly. The hearing manager — who went on at length about all the “procedural guidelines” — issued the following warning to participants:

Profanity and vulgar language will not be allowed. Please keep your statements clean, or you will be escorted off the premises.

The hearing manager concluded the event … by suggesting that attendees might try to hide in the restrooms!

I would ask that everyone gather themselves and proceed to the exit. The building will be cleared. The restrooms will be checked and the building secured. This hearing is now adjourned. Thank you.

Recommendations:

A required annual hearing needs to be a meaningful event. I suggest that a minimum of four hours be set aside for the hearing. A full day would be better. If the public were to see that BLM took these hearings seriously, more persons would surely attend.

Ample time must be reserved for each participant to comment, with the amount of time extended if there is a low number in attendance. I suggest 30 minutes per person. Question-and-answer periods are essential, and dialogue should be encouraged.

BLM staffers should be provided training in customer-service skills, and they need to be reminded that courtesy and respect must be shown to members of the public. BLM employees must be reminded that they are duty-bound to honor the public-input component, which the subject hearing is meant to fulfill.

Conclusions

Renounce the use of helicopters under any circumstances.
Use motorized vehicles only to carry in water, forage, or materials.
Empower wild-horse advocates to have a real influence on BLM processes
Respect hearing-participants, and respect the public-input component.

Thank you for this opportunity to participate in this hearing by submitting substantive comments. Would you please keep me informed and on your mailing list to be notified regarding matters that affect the wild horses of Wyoming.

Sincerely,

Marybeth Devlin

Forever wild and free™

Wild Horses © Cynthia Smalley band

We must all unite to fight this! Let’s put management differences aside and focus on what is really important now–the wild horses. Everyone is needed to fight the stealth slaughter lobby and their political figureheads who want to slaughter America’s wild horses to “dispose” of them. Sign up to be notified of actions and alerts.

Get your I Love Ponies t-shirts to raise awareness for wild ponies

 

Order your shirts here: https://www.booster.com/loveponies

Help raise awareness with T-shirts! Did you know that many American wild horses are often pony height? Mustangs need to be adopted to get out of the holding pens and they make great pony partners! Get the “I love ponies” T-Shirt to encourage education and mustang adoptions. Irma Novak (17) a member of the United States Pony Club, was inspired to make this shirt for the Discover Mustangs program after she saw the most adorable wild ponies who need to find homes.

Here’s the link to get your T-Shirts: https://www.booster.com/loveponies Only 7 days left!

All the money raised goes to feed the Discover Mustangs program wild horses. Protect Mustangs is a California nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of native and wild horses (& ponies too).

PM Mantle Little Cloud #0729

Dangerous bill puts America’s wild horses at risk of slaughter

©Cynthia Smalley

 

Dear Friends of Wild horses and burros,

It’s bad when the BLM holds captive mustangs with no shade or shelter but if we all don’t rally quickly to stop a misleading bill in Congress, we could witness America’s cherished wild horses being sold to slaughter by the thousands instead of being held captive in holding pens or living in freedom as the law intended–safe from harassment and slaughter.

You probably have witnessed what happens when the states “manage” wild horses. . . In the case of the 41 wild horses from Dry Creek, Wyoming, 37 were sold to the Canadian slaughterhouse. We are so grateful to have rescued 14 youngsters (8mo-2 yrs) who were all going to be butchered for human consumption abroad.

Below is an Associated Press article that is going viral this weekend while the National Association of Counties is meeting in New Orleans. The Utah Commissioners are trying to get a joint resolution backed which would put American wild horses at-risk of being killed and slaughtered to “dispose of them.” Of course the politicians don’t pitch it this way. No . . . they cover that part up and make their resolution and their legislation look like it has animal welfare in mind. You can see the bill below.

Let’s hope this article shines the light on their sinister plans. It’s time to fight for the protection of wild horses.

Bill seeks to allow states to manage wild horses
By Martin Griffith, Associated Press

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A Utah congressman has introduced legislation to allow Western states and American Indian tribes to take over management of wild horses and burros from the federal government.

Rep. Chris Stewart said the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has mismanaged the animals on public rangelands and states should have the option of managing them.

An overpopulation of horses is pushing cattle off the range, the Republican lawmaker said, and leading to the destruction of important habitat for native species.

“States and tribes already successfully manage large quantities of wildlife within their borders,” Stewart said in a statement. “If horses and burros were under that same jurisdiction, I’m confident that new ideas and opportunities would be developed to manage the herds more successfully than the federal government.”

But Anne Novak, executive director of California-based Protect Mustangs, said her group opposes the legislation because it would lead to states and tribes killing the animals or selling them off for slaughter for human consumption.

The government is rounding up too many mustangs while allowing livestock to feed at taxpayer expense on the same rangeland scientists say is being overgrazed, she said.

“We’ve had firsthand experience with states and tribes managing wild horses, and it’s horribly cruel,” Novak said in a statement. “They ruthlessly remove wild horses and sell them to kill-buyers at auction. Severe animal abuse would be the result of the (legislation).”

The Bureau of Land Management says it’s doing all it can, given budget constraints, overflowing holding pens and a distaste for the politically unpopular options of either ending the costly roundups or slaughtering excess horses.

The bill’s introduction comes at a time when the bureau has been under increasing pressure from ranchers to remove horses that they say threaten livestock and wildlife on rangelands already damaged by drought.

In Utah, Iron County commissioners had threatened to gather up hundreds of mustangs themselves, saying the government refuses to remove enough horses in herds that double in size every five years.

Iron County Commissioner Dave Miller said he and commissioners from Utah’s Beaver and Garfield counties are trying to drum up support for a resolution in support of the legislation at the National Association of Counties annual conference in New Orleans, which ends Monday.

“The resolution will be instrumental in getting Chris Stewart’s bill through Congress because it shows support across the nation,” he told The Spectrum of St. George, Utah.

Stewart said his Wild Horse Oversight Act would extend all protections that horses and burros enjoy under the federal Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 while giving states the opportunity of implementing their own management plans.

Under the bill, the states could form cooperative agreements to manage herds that cross over borders, and the federal government would continue to monitor horses and burros to ensure that population numbers as prescribed by the 1971 act are maintained.

The bureau estimates 40,600 of the animals — the vast majority horses — roam free on bureau-managed rangelands in 10 Western states. The population exceeds by nearly 14,000 the number the agency has determined can exist in balance with other public rangeland resources and uses.

Some 49,000 horses and burros removed from the range are being held in government-funded short- and long-term facilities.

# # #

Cross-posted from the San Francisco Chronicle for educational purposes: http://www.sfgate.com/news/science/article/Bill-seeks-to-allow-states-to-manage-wild-horses-5617520.php

Please share this news with your friends and help with a donation to feed and care for the WY14 and the other wild horses in our Outreach Program here: http://protectmustangs.org/?page_id=701

Hear a commissioner spin his pitch while interviewed on a friendly radio station in Utah: https://soundcloud.com/ksvc/mark

Take action and contact your county commissioners and all your elected officials to request they do not support rogue commissioners in Utah and ask that they do not support the individual states managing wild horses because it would put them at risk of slaughter.

Now is the time to stand up and fight for the voiceless!  Together we can turn this around.

Many blessings,
Anne

Anne Novak
Executive Director
Anne@ProtectMustangs.org
www.ProtectMustangs.org

PM WH&B Oversight Act Web

 

PM WH&B Oversight Act 2

 

 

at Wynema Ranch

Conservationists question sage grouse protection plans

WIKIMEDIA

WIKIMEDIA

Cross-posted from New Science Magazine

By Chelsea Biondolillo 10 July 2014

The U.S. government should be cautious about adopting the state of Wyoming’s strategy for protecting the greater sage grouse—a grassland bird at the center of a national controversy—conservationists argue in a report scheduled to be released tomorrow. The critics say the state, which is home to an estimated one-third of the country’s remaining sage grouse, is pursuing a strategy that fails to preclude intrusive development in key habitat, provide adequate buffer zones, and preserve winter habitat. The critique comes as federal officials have begun to adopt portions of Wyoming’s approach to protecting the bird on federal lands, saying it offers a promising way to balance conservation and economic development.

The grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) makes its home in sagebrush steppe in 11 states and is the largest grouse in North America. Biologists estimate its current population is between 200,000 and 400,000 birds. That could be as low as 1% of historic levels, says Mark Salvo of Defenders of Wildlife in Washington, D.C., a lead author of the white paper. In 2003, the population decline prompted many scientists and environmentalists to ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to add the sage grouse to its list of animals protected by the Endangered Species Act. In 2010, the agency ruled that the bird warranted listing, but that other animals were of higher priority, and said it would reconsider the issue in September 2015.

That deadline is looming, and state officials and agencies across the grouse’s habitat have been scrambling to come up with management plans that they hope will prevent the bird being listed as endangered. State officials fear that a listing would force a wide range of development controls on lands owned by the federal government, which account for more than half of the territory of some western states. Nearly one-half of Wyoming, for example, is federal land, including areas key to the mining and oil and gas industries.

In a bid to avoid listing, Wyoming’s governor in 2011 outlined the state’s strategy in an executive order. It is based on a concept called core area protection, and recently the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced it was adopting major elements of the strategy in a long-range plan for protecting more than 800,000 hectares of federal land around Lander, Wyoming. The plan, officially known as a Resource Management Plan (RMP), is the first of 15 such plans BLM is developing across the 11 sage grouse states.

Rick Vander Voet, field manager at the Lander BLM office, says that the RMP was chosen as the best and most balanced mix of options among the alternatives considered. He says this plan “reflects years of extensive collaboration with cooperating agencies, non-governmental organizations and the public.” The Lander Field Office is unique among the other areas in the state considering RMPs, in that 99% of BLM land under their jurisdiction is sage grouse habitat—and nearly two-thirds of it is considered core habitat. Vander Voet says that in and around Lander, “every other resource, from archaeology to wilderness study areas will in some way influence greater sage grouse.”

The report concludes that the RMP’s version of the core area strategy will not prevent future declines in grouse populations. Among the specific concerns:

Buffer zones aren’t big enough. The plan establishes “surface occupancy buffer zones” around grouse leks—the areas where the birds gather for mating displays—which means no oil or gas infrastructure within about 1 kilometer of active leks. But that number is not supported by any scientific literature or studies, the report argues. Instead, Salvo notes, the best available scientific literature recommends about a 6-kilometer buffer. Critics note that a BLM draft of an alternative plan that was not adopted quoted a 2007 study which concluded that buffers of about 1 to 3 kilometers wide failed to prevent population declines of sage grouse. The agency should heed such research and widen the buffer zones, the report argues.

Too few controls on surface disturbances in critical sage grouse habitat. Such disturbances can include roads, oil and gas development, and construction. Wyoming’s plan allows for up to 5% of “suitable sage grouse habitat” to be disturbed, although a 2011 review prepared for BLM by nearly two dozen federal and state biologists and land managers recommended 3% or less surface disturbance. The Wyoming plan allows “too much drilling … in the wrong places,” Salvo argues.

It ignores threats to wintering grounds. The plan restricts development activities in sage grouse habitat that the birds use during the winter months, but eases up when the birds move elsewhere in the spring and summer. Research, however, suggests the birds will avoid returning to wintering grounds if they have been disturbed, critics say. They urge BLM to follow the advice of its 2011 review panel, which recommended prohibiting surface disturbance in or adjacent to winter habitat any time of the year.

The authors of the report hope BLM officials will take such issues into account as the agency finalizes its remaining management plans, including three more for Wyoming. The state “is key to sage-grouse conservation,” Salvo says.

BLM’s Vander Voet says the goal for his office, in administering the RMP, will be to balance the “primary drivers of the local economy” (oil and gas, tourism, recreation, and agriculture) while protecting important cultural and natural resources—including greater sage grouse—for the future.

*Correction, 11 July, 1:25 p.m.: The current sage grouse population compared with historic levels has been corrected. Additionally, FWS ruled in 2010, not in 2011, that the sage grouse warranted listing. Finally, a link to the report has been added.

Urgent 2 young wild fillies need homes

PM Mantle Little Cloud #0729

Visit our Facebook page for updates on LITTLE CLOUD and FEATHER: https://www.facebook.com/ProtectMustangs

Please share to find a home for LITTLE CLOUD (#0729), a sweet and sensitive Salt Wells yearling filly who will trust you and be your dream horse if you gentle her nice and slow. Let her come to you and she will realize you won’t hurt her. LITTLE CLOUD is a love and a rare wild horse from the American West. Go here to bid on her and know she is growing through the awkward phase. https://www.blm.gov/adoptahorse/onlinegallery.php?horseCategory=470

LITTLE CLOUD (#0729) needs a home or she will get another STRIKE against her! 3 STRIKES and they lose ALL protections and can legally be sold to SLAUGHTER. That’s the law on the books. It’s called the BURNS AMENDMENT. Read what BLM says about 3 STRIKES: http://protectmustangs.org/?p=2811

Even if BLM got in trouble due to the Tom Davis scandal and said they would be more careful the BLM still has the legal right to sell young and old wild horses for $10 a head by the truckload. So yes it is urgent to find a home for LITTLE CLOUD (#0729) Thank you for sharing her info so she can find her person

SAVE LITTLE CLOUD! Call Steve Mantle’s son Nick Mantle at mantle0345@yahoo.com or call 307-331-1488 to get her even after the bidding stops.

Remember Sharing is Caring. Here is her Facebook post to share out: https://www.facebook.com/ProtectMustangs/photos/a.240625045996522.58710.233633560029004/720265634699125/?type=1&theater

 

PM Mantle Feather #0519

 

URGENT UPDATE July 7 4pm: FEATHER (#0519) from Salt Wells needs an adopter!!! NO One is picking her because she’s not flashy. She’s supersensitive and needs someone who will love her and take their time to gentle her. She will feel your love and build trust with you Please SHARE widely to find her a home. TYVM.

FEATHER (#0519) needs a home or she will get another STRIKE against her! 3 STRIKES and they lose ALL protections and can legally be sold to SLAUGHTER. That’s the law on the books. It’s called the BURNS AMENDMENT. Read what BLM says about 3 STRIKES: http://protectmustangs.org/?p=2811

Even if BLM got in trouble due to the Tom Davis scandal and said they would be more careful the BLM still has the legal right to sell young and old wild horses for $10 a head by the truckload. So yes it is urgent to find a home for FEATHER. Thank you for sharing her info so she can find her person

SHARE to HELP FEATHER (#0519) find her home. She so wants to be safe and loved. You can bid on her here: https://www.blm.gov/adoptahorse/onlinegallery.php?horseCategory=470

Call Steve Mantle’s son Nick Mantle at mantle0345@yahoo.com or call 307-331-1488 to get her even after the bidding stops. FEATHER must be saved!  https://www.facebook.com/ProtectMustangs/photos/a.240625045996522.58710.233633560029004/719868748072147/?type=1&theater

Wild horses as native north American wildlife

 

© Cynthia Smalley

Statement for the 109th Congress (1st Session) in support of H.R. 297
A Bill in the House of Representatives
House Committee on Resources
Introduced January 25, 2005

To restore the prohibition on the commercial sale and slaughter of wild free-roaming horses and burros.

BY JAY F. KIRKPATRICK, PH.D. AND PATRICIA M. FAZIO, PH.D.

Are wild horses truly “wild,” as an indigenous species in North America, or are they “feral” weeds – barnyard escapees, far removed genetically from their prehistoric ancestors? The question at hand is, therefore, whether or not modern horses, Equus caballus, should be considered native wildlife.

The genus Equus, which includes modern horses, zebras, and asses, is the only surviving genus in a once diverse family of horses that included 27 genera. The precise date of origin for the genus Equus is unknown, but evidence documents the dispersal of Equus from North America to Eurasia approximately 2-3 million years ago and a possible origin at about 3.4-3.9 million years ago. Following this original emigration, several extinctions occurred in North America, with additional migrations to Asia (presumably across the Bering Land Bridge), and return migrations back to North America, over time. The last North American extinction occurred between 13,000 and 11,000 years ago.1 Had it not been for previous westward migration, over the land bridge, into northwestern Russia (Siberia) and Asia, the horse would have faced complete extinction. However, Equus survived and spread to all continents of the globe, except Australia and Antarctica.

In 1493, on Columbus’ second voyage to the Americas, Spanish horses, representing E. caballus, were brought back to North America, first in the Virgin Islands, and, in 1519, they were reintroduced on the continent, in modern-day Mexico, from where they radiated throughout the American Great Plains, after escape from their owners.2

Critics of the idea that the North American wild horse is a native animal, using only paleontological data, assert that the species, E. caballus (or the caballoid horse), which was introduced in 1519, was a different species from that which disappeared 13,000 to 11,000 years before. Herein lies the crux of the debate. However, the relatively new (27-year-old) field of molecular biology, using mitochondrial-DNA analysis, has recently found that the modern or caballine horse, E. caballus, is genetically equivalent to E. lambei, a horse, according to fossil records, that represented the most recent Equus species in North America prior to extinction. Not only is E. caballus genetically equivalent to E. lambei, but no evidence exists for the origin of E. caballus anywhere except North America.3

According to the work of Uppsala University researcher Ann Forstén, of the Department of Evolutionary Biology, the date of origin, based on mutation rates for mitochondrial-DNA, for E. caballus, is set at approximately 1.7 million years ago in North America. Now the debate becomes one of whether the older paleontological fossil data or the modern molecular biology data more accurately provide a picture of horse evolution. The older taxonomic methodologies looked at physical form for classifying animals and plants, relying on visual observations of physical characteristics. While earlier taxonomists tried to deal with the subjectivity of choosing characters they felt would adequately describe, and thus group, genera and species, these observations were lacking in precision. Reclassifications are now taking place, based on the power and objectivity of molecular biology. If one considers primate evolution, for example, the molecular biologists have provided us with a completely different evolutionary pathway for humans, and they have described entirely different relationships with other primates. None of this would have been possible prior to the methodologies now available through mitochondrial-DNA analysis.

Carles Vilà, also of the Department of Evolutionary Biology at Uppsala University, has corroborated Forstén’s work. Vilà et al have shown that the origin of domestic horse lineages was extremely widespread, over time and geography, and supports the existence of the caballoid horse in North American before its disappearance.4

Finally, the work of Hofreiter et al, 5 examining the genetics of the so-called E. lambei from the permafrost of Alaska, found that the variation was within that of modern horses, which translates into E. lambei actually being E. caballus, genetically. The molecular biology evidence is incontrovertible and indisputable. The fact that horses were domesticated before they were reintroduced matters little from a biological viewpoint. They are the same species that originated here, and whether or not they were domesticated is quite irrelevant. Domestication altered little biology, and we can see that in the phenomenon called “going wild,” where wild horses revert to ancient behavioral patterns. James Dean Feist dubbed this “social conservation” in his paper on behavior patterns and communication in the Pryor Mountain wild horses. The reemergence of primitive behaviors, resembling those of the plains zebra, indicated to him the shallowness of domestication in horses.6

The issue of feralization and the use of the word “feral” is a human construct that has little biological meaning except in transitory behavior, usually forced on the animal in some manner. Consider this parallel. E. Przewalski (Mongolian wild horse) disappeared from Mongolia a hundred years ago. It has survived since then in zoos. That is not domestication in the classic sense, but it is captivity, with keepers providing food and veterinarians providing health care. Then they were released a few years back and now repopulate their native range in Mongolia. Are they a reintroduced native species or not? And what is the difference between them and E. caballus in North America, except for the time frame and degree of captivity?

The key element in describing an animal as a native species is (1) where it originated; and (2) whether or not it co-evolved with its habitat. Clearly, E. caballus did both, here in North American. There might be arguments about “breeds,” but there are no scientific grounds for arguments about “species.” The non-native, feral, and exotic designations given by agencies are not merely reflections of their failure to understand modern science, but also a reflection of their desire to preserve old ways of thinking to keep alive the conflict between a species (wild horses) with no economic value anymore (by law) and th economic value of commercial livestock. Native status for wild horses would place these animals, under law, within a new category for management considerations. As a form of wildlife, embedded with wildness, ancient behavioral patterns, and the morphology and biology of a sensitive prey species, they may finally be released from the “livestock-goneloose” appellation.

_________________________________

Jay F. Kirkpatrick, Director, The Science and Conservation Center, Billings, Mondana, holds a Ph.D. in reproductive physiology from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University. Patricia M. Fazio is currently a freelance environmental writer and editor residing in Cody, Wyoming and holds a B.S. in animal husbandry/biology from Cornell University, and M.S. in environmental history from the University of Wyoming, and a Ph.D. in environmental history from Texas A&M University, College Station.

1 “Horse Evolution” by Kathleen Hunt from www.onthenet.com.au/~stear/horse_evolution.htm; Bruce J. MacFadden, Fossil Horses: Systematics, Paleobiology, and Evolution of the Family Equidae (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 205.

2 Patricia Mabee Fazio, “The Fight to Save a Memory: Creation of the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range (1968) and Evolving Federal Wild Horse Protection through 1971,” doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University, College Station, 1995, p. 21.

3 Ann Forstén, 1992. Mitochondrial-DNA timetable and the evolution of Equus: Comparison of molecular and paleontological evidence. Ann. Zool. Fennici 28: 301-309.

4 Carles Vilà, Jennifer A. Leonard, Anders Götherström, Stefan Marklund, Kaj Sandberg, Kerstin Lidén, Robert K. Wayne, Hans Ellegren. 2001. Widespread origins of domestic horse lineages. Science 291: 474- 477.

5 Hofreiter, Michael; Serre, David; Poinar, Hendrik N.; Kuch, Melanie; Pääbo, Svante. 2001. Ancient DNA. Nature Reviews Genetics. 2(5), 353-359.

6 James Dean Feist and Dale R. McCullough. 1976. Behavior patterns and communication in feral horses. Z. Tierpsychol. 41: 367.

Posted for educational purposes.

Dine’ Elders and Medicine People take action to protect horses

© Irma Novak, all rights reserved

© Irma Novak, all rights reserved

Dine’ Elders and Medicine people unanimously pass joint resolution urging Navajo Nation to comply with fundamental law in treatment of horses and expressing opposition to the 2014 Rangeland Improvement Act

TEESTO, Az — Diné Hataalii Association and Nohooka’ Diné, traditional cultural leaders, passed a joint resolution on June 14, 2014, advising the Navajo Nation to adhere to Dine’ spiritual traditions and culture to insure the humane treatment of horses and complete halt to NN horse round-up. Dr. Anthony Lee, President of DHA, spoke of the fire that is out of control on the Chuska Mountain Range, “this (fire) can be attributed, in part, to the horses that already have been slaughtered with no amends made to the Holy People.”

The resolution also expresses opposition to the 2014 Rangeland Improvement Act because the Navajo Nation has not properly consulted or informed the Dine’ people about the Act’s purpose, intent, impacts and/or consequences. The resolution states, “The 2014 Rangeland Improvement Act defines horses as “livestock” or an “animal unit” without regard for the sacred place that horses have in our healing ceremonies, prayers and way of life. This attempt to diminish or prohibit our spiritual way of life and understandings is a direct violation of the Navajo Nation’s bill of rights under freedom of religion.”

The two traditional groups also asked the Navajo Nation to conduct a formal and thorough investigation into alleged horse theft by those the Nation employed during the round-up, charging that some of the horses taken during the roundups were professionally trained with brands and grazing permits. Mr. Leland Grass of Nohooka Dine’ said, “Horse theft and cruelty is a serious crime, it victimizes both the people whose horses were taken and it victimizes the horses.  As traditional people we see every horse as sacred and when we treat them inhumanely we violate our own sacredness as human beings”.

The resolution also expresses concerns with a recent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Bill Richardson, Robert Redford and Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly regarding horse slaughter and the round-ups. The resolution states, the MOU “does not acknowledge our sacred way of life and custom of Dine’ People” and “without the direct involvement and full participation of the Dine’ People, Elders, and Medicine People this MOU…will not have attained the free, prior and informed consent of the Dine’ Peoples as is required by law”. Dr. Lee states “In the long run, we, as medicine people, are advocating and protecting the sacred medicine bundles, passed down to us by our forebears and ancestry. They ensure the future survival of our children and grandchildren.”

The resolution further states, “It is unacceptable to violate or challenge our Creator’s immutable Laws and the way of life that was provided to us, as Dine’, to maintain balance and harmony with All Creation”. “We strongly urge the Navajo Nation to create and uphold man-made laws that do not oppose, challenge or go against our sacred Dine’ way of life”. “As earth surface people, we do not have the power nor the authority to change, alter, or supersede the natural and fundamental laws established by the Holy People”, adds Dr. Lee.

The resolution affirms that horses are sacred and created with the universe and ends by insisting “that all horses be treated humanely and that we maintain a healthy relationship with (the horse).”

Read more about the resolution HERE

BLM to bait/water trap wild horses who will lose their freedom forever

 

BLM Press Release:

Winnemucca, Nev. – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Winnemucca District, Humboldt River Field Office will begin a wild horse bait/water trap on Monday, June 23 with a placement of corrals located in Pershing County approximately 10 miles northeast of Lovelock, Nevada at the Humboldt Herd Area (HA). Actual gathering of wild horses will commence once the corrals are in place and the wild horses become accustomed. The BLM will gather and remove approximately 100 wild horses from the range.

“The Humboldt HA was not designated for the long-term management of wild horses through the Sonoma-Gerlach Management Framework Plan due to the checkerboard land pattern found within the HA and, therefore, is not currently managed for wild horses or burros,” said Humboldt River Field Manager Vic Lozano. “Since this area is not a Herd Management Area managed for wild horses, these wild horses have been identified as excess.”

A Wild Horse Gather Information Line has been established for this gather at (775) 623-1747. A recorded message will provide information on daily gather activities and updated gather schedules. The BLM will also post daily gather reports on its website at: http://bit.ly/HHAGather.

A Public/Media tour has been set-up for Tuesday, June 24. Public will meet at the Court House Park, at 400 Main Street in Lovelock, Nevada at 7:30 a.m. Visitors must RSVP by calling the Gather Information Hotline (775) 623-1747 and leave a message, or call Lisa Ross, Public Affairs Specialist, at (775) 885-6107 (email: lross@blm.gov).

The gather area is comprised of 431,544 acres of both private and public lands. Removing the excess wild horses will help prevent further deterioration of the range and water resources, as well as address safety issues on roads and private land issues. There are currently an estimated 282 wild horses from an aerial population count conducted in May 2014.

The contractor for this gather is Cattoor Livestock of Nephi, Utah. The gathered animals will be transported to the Palomino Valley Center near Reno, Nevada where they will be prepared for the BLM adoption program. Horses not adopted will be placed in long-term pastures where they will be humanly cared for and retain their “wild” status and protection under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.

For more information contact Mandy Deforest at 775-623-1579.

 

–BLM—