Yellow journalism in Wall Street Journal pushing pesticide as “birth control” on wild horses?

Pm PZP Darts

Made with slaughterhouse pig ovaries PZP is dangerous to herd health

To:  Jacob Bunge, Wall Street Journal

Dear Mr. Bunge:  Regarding your article — They Shoot Horses (With Birth-Control Darts), Don’t They? — here are facts to correct the lies and disinformation you have been told.

Sting of the dart:  If it were only a sting!  Fact: Many wild horses develop an abscess at the dart-injection site.

Bogus ballooning population:  Wild horses are a slow-growth species when it comes to reproduction.  The gestation period lasts 11 months, and a mare produces just 1 foal.  While an independent study of BLM’s records confirmed an almost 20% birth rate, that study also found that 50% of foals perish before their first birthday.  Thus, the effective increase in population from new foals is just 10%.  But adult mustangs also die.  They succumb to illness, injury, and predation at a rate of at least 5% a year.  So, what is a normal herd-growth rate?  About 5%, probably less.

Fraudulent figures:  The Big Lie of “overpopulation” is the pretext for BLM’s war against the wild horses, and the wild horses are prisoners of that war.  It’s BLM’s version of the “Shock Doctrine,” wherein BLM concocted a phony crisis to push through policies antithetical to the Wild Horse Act against the will of The People.  There is no overpopulation except on BLM’s falsified spreadsheets.  Reviews of BLM’s population-estimates reveal biologically-impossible herd-growth rates.  For instance, in Utah, BLM claimed that the Conger herd grew from 156 horses to 285 horses in one year, an 82.7% increase, to which BLM tacked on another 20% by counting the unborn foals — the fetuses.  In Wyoming, BLM declared that the Salt Wells Creek herd grew from 29 horses to 616 horses in 6 months (yes, months), a 2,024% increase.  BLM’s “data” is chock-full of such preposterous growth-estimates.  So, when you hear talk of how the wild horses are reproducing “exponentially,” that’s a sure sign that BLM has falsified the data.

Wild horses are underpopulated:  Per the guidelines of BLM’s own geneticist, 83% of the herds suffer from arbitrary management levels (AMLs) set below minimum-viable population (MVP).  Low AMLs enable BLM to claim an “excess” in herds whose numbers, even if they were over AML, would still not reach MVP.  So being “over AML” is meaningless as well as misleading.  But the low AMLs, combined with falsified, biologically-impossible herd-growth estimates, give BLM an excuse to scapegoat those few wild horses for the range-damage done by the millions of livestock that overgraze the public lands.

Whose grass?  In fact, it is the livestock who are eating the wild horses’ grass.  Some background — the dedicated wild-horse habitats cover only 11% of BLM land.  Cattle are allowed to graze about 5 times that much, including within all but 4 of the wild-horse herd areas.  Yet in those official wild-horse habitats where livestock are given allotments, the mustangs are restricted to 18% of the forage while the cattle get 82%.

Bogus billion:  The wild horses being held in captivity are the “legacy” of former Secretary Salazar’s equid cleansing era, during which he had thousands of wild horses removed from the range.  However, the mortality rate of captive wild horses is about 8% a year.  So, obviously, since they are not reproducing, their numbers will steadily drop, showing that BLM’s billion-dollar figure for their care is just another Lie.  The Wild Horse and Burro program, if run per the minimum-feasible management-model specified by Law, would not cost much at all.  BLM does not lack for resources.  There are 22 million acres of legally-designated wild-horse herd areas — which BLM previously took away for expediency — that can be reopened as habitat.  The horses now held captive can be released to those areas, where the cost of their upkeep will be $0.

Adoptions:  Have not declined.  It’s just that BLM used to count sales-for-slaughter as “adoptions.”  Now, only “forever-family” placements qualify.  However, wild horses are not homeless horses.  They have a home — where they belong — on the range.

Persecuted predators:  Contrary to BLM’s disinformation campaign, wild horses do have natural predators — mountain lions, bears, wolves, and coyotes.  But those predators are persecuted mercilessly.  The government exterminates what the hunters don’t shoot.  However, the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros — Wild Horse Annie’s foundation — notes that even without predators, wild-horse herds self-regulate their numbers, with population-growth in the single digits.

Science and Conservation Center:  Is the manufacturer and distributor of PZP / ZonaStat-H.  Thus, its information is not impartial.  PZP is a registered pesticide that was approved by the EPA for use on wild horses and burros “where they have become a nuisance.”   However, PZP was registered without the standard testing requirements.  There is currently a lawsuit challenging the legitimacy of the registration, especially in light of studies that have disclosed PZP’s many adverse side-effects.

Shooting wild horses:  PZP is a potent weapon in BLM’s arsenal — for its biological warfare against the wild horses.  But birth control for wild horses is unnecessary because there is no overpopulation.  Why would we contracept herds whose population is inadequate for genetic viability?  Why would we contracept herds based on falsified figures?  Logically we wouldn’t and ethically we shouldn’t.  Further, if PZP were going to stop the roundups, it would have done so long ago for the Pryor Mountain herd, which has been darted with PZP for nearly two decades.  Yet roundups have been scheduled there like clockwork every 3 years and, in spite of intensifying the PZP treatments recently, BLM tried to implement yearly roundups until stopped by a Friends of Animals lawsuit.

PZP — the anti-vaccine:  PZP causes auto-immune disease.  PZP “works” by tricking the immune system into producing antibodies that target and attack the ovaries.  The antibodies cause ovarian dystrophy, oophoritis (inflammation of the ovaries), ovarian cysts, destruction of oocytes in growing follicles, and depletion of resting follicles.  The mare’s estrogen-levels drop markedly as PZP destroys her ovaries.  Ultimately, PZP sterilizes her.  Because PZP stimulates the immune system, it ironically works “best” — sterilizes faster — in mares that have strong immune-function.  Such mares respond to the anti-vaccine and produce quantities of PZP antibodies that destroy their ovaries.  But, conversely, PZP may not work at all in mares whose immune-function is weak or depressed.  Those mares fail to respond to PZP.  They keep getting pregnant and producing foals who, like their dams, suffer from weak immune-function.  So, the PZP pesticide works against the very horses that Nature has best equipped for survival-against-disease while favoring and selecting for the immuno-compromised.  Worse yet, radioimmunoassay tests indicated that PZP antibodies are transferred from mother to female offspring via the placenta and milk.

Health-risks to volunteers:  As for the well-meaning volunteers who dart wild horses, EPA’s Pesticide Fact Sheet for PZP advises that Personal Protective Equipment requirements include long sleeved shirt and long pants, gloves and shoes plus socks to mitigate occupational exposure.  EPA specifically warns that pregnant women must not be involved in handling or injecting ZonaStat-H, and that all women should be aware that accidental self-injection may cause infertility.  Unfortunately, PZP’s manufacturer has misrepresented PZP as “so safe it is boring.”   But research shows that PZP is a powerful hormone disruptor.  Further, consider the magnitude of the risk — the PZP-in-question is a horse-size dose.  If volunteers think PZP is safe, they will be less likely to protect themselves from this dangerous pesticide.  Indeed, please note that in the photo accompanying your article, Ms. Bolbol is not in compliance with EPA’s safety-precautions.  She is not wearing the required protective gear.

Mengelian experiments:  Now, BLM wants to perform diabolical sterilization experiments on these equine POWs to develop a Final Solution to the “problem”.  BLM is handing out $11 million for sterilization-studies.  The grant money is surely intended to buy loyalty and silence potential criticism from academia.  Plus, BLM, a corrupt agency, gets to cloak itself in respectability by affiliating with prestigious universities.

The ugly side of PZP is humane-washed by feel-good features that describe it with humor, sweetness and light.  However, the true story of PZP is one of scandal, whose deceit and danger — to both horses and humans — must be exposed.  That is the story that needs to be reported.

Sincerely,

Marybeth Devlin

 Marybeth Devlin is a member of the Protect Mustangs Advisory Board and a member of the Alliance for Wild Horses and Burros
This mare waits in the alley before being led into the chute where her age and body condition will be checked. After being treated with the PZP fertility control agent, this mare will be released back to the Owyhee HMA.

This mare waits in the alley before being led into the chute where her age and body condition will be checked. After being treated with the PZP fertility control agent, this mare will be released back to the Owyhee HMA.

Protect Mustangs is a 501c3 nonprofit organization who protects and preserves native and wild horses.




The Role of Livestock in Sage Grouse Decline

WIKIMEDIA

WIKIMEDIA

By, George Wuerthner Grazing, Livestoc

Cross-posted from: http://bit.ly/2ad8Hni for educational purposes

The Greater Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is the largest grouse in North America. The grouse is found in sagebrush steppe from Alberta to New Mexico and throughout the Great Basin region of Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming.  The sage grouse is extirpated from much of its former range and is no longer found in British Columbia, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arizona and New Mexico.

Habitat loss, combined with habitat degradation has led to its decline from a previous estimated population of 16 million to the present 250,000-500,000 across its remaining vast geographical range.  Because many of the remaining populations are small and fragmented, the bird’s population continues to decline due to random stochastic events like local winter storms that might cause an isolated group to wink out and perhaps as a consequence of genetic issues related to inbreeding depression.  The bird is currently under petition for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

The decline of the sage grouse is symptomatic of the overall decline of the ecological health of the sage brush steppe with which it is intricately entwined. In parts of the bird’s range, much of the sagebrush habitat in eastern Washington, northern Montana, and parts of Northwest Oregon has been converted to wheat and other agricultural croplands.

In parts of Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and Utah oil and gas development has led to significant habitat fragmentation of the sage brush steppe and thus declines in sage grouse.

In small areas, habitat has also been lost to urban and rural development, wind farms, power line corridors, and other factors.

LIVESTOCK COMMON DENOMINATOR IN DECLINE

But the common denominator in the bird’s decline across its entire geographical range is livestock production.

With the exception of the habitat acreage lost to agricultural production, these other factors have only recently become an issue for sage grouse survival. Sage grouse numbers have been falling for decades, long before some of these other factors like oil and gas development, power lines, wind farms, subdivisions, and so forth were an issue across much of its habitat, however, livestock have been degrading sage grouse habitat for a century or more.

Livestock affect sage grouse at every step of their life history.

LIVESTOCK IMPACTS ON CHICKS

Sage grouse lack a muscular gizzard so can’t eat seeds. They must consume soft foods. Although sage grouse depend on sage brush, they also do consume forbs (flowers) insects and perhaps even grasses at certain seasons. In summer months forbs can make up to 40% of the adult diet. Since cattle also eat these same plants, in many areas, cattle are consuming the food that might otherwise sustain sage grouse. In drought years (when competition between cattle and grouse is more intense) sometimes grouse will simply forgo breeding in low nutrition years. By contrast, hens in good nutritional shape will produce more eggs, and healthier chicks. So the mere presence of cattle and sheep grazing sage grouse habitat is literally taking food out of the mouth of sage grouse.

Sage grouse require good grass/forb cover under or near sage brush as hiding cover for nesting habitat to avoid predators. Grazing removes a lot of that cover, making hens vulnerable to predation from coyotes, ravens, and even ground squirrels. In Idaho they are poisoning ravens to “boost” sage grouse numbers–instead of leaving more grass behind to give sage grouse sufficient cover. If the grass cover is good, the hens are less vulnerable to predators.

MICRO CLIMATE FOR NEST AND EGGS

Another impact of grazing on nesting success has to do with micro-climate. Males do not help raise the young or guard the eggs, thus the female must leave periodically to feed. During this time, it’s critical for the nest and eggs to have enough cover to moderate the nest environment. Temperatures either too hot or too cold can be disastrous to the eggs. Again livestock grazing often reduces this critical cover component.

Unlike some other “chicken like” birds say pheasant, sage grouse tend to have fewer eggs. They are a long-lived bird, but they can’t sustain high nest losses year after year.

IMPACTS ON RIPARIAN HABITAT

After the chicks hatch, they feed mostly on insects and forbs in wet meadows and riparian areas. Forbs constitute up to 50% of their diet for the first 11 weeks. Insects are also important and may be as much as 75% of their diet in the first couple of weeks.

Unfortunately the activity that has destroyed more riparian habitat and wet meadows than any other is livestock grazing. Cattle trample the soils reducing the infiltration of water reducing the physical extent of wet meadows. They break down stream banks creating down cutting of stream channels which then causes the water table to fall, again reducing the extent of wet meadows or riparian vegetation.  Livestock trample springs, and/or ranchers often “develop” springs to water stock, in either case limiting their output which is the source for summer flows in many streams, again reducing the riparian influence.

Livestock are naturally attracted to wet meadows and riparian areas and preferentially graze these areas because high soil moisture increases overall plant production and palatablity. Yet the vegetation in these wet meadows and riparian area  is critical as hiding cover for chicks so they are not eaten by predators.

This effect of plant cover loss is amplified in drought years to the detriment of grouse. Since lower precipitation means less grass production and cover, chicks are already more vulnerable to predators. But in drought years, wet meadows are especially attractive to cattle which often graze them down to billiard table lawns with no cover for chicks or adult hens.

Yet another way that livestock production has impacted sage grouse is the loss of the best habitat to livestock production. Sage grouse do best on flat to slightly sloping terrain with some streams or wetlands close by. Of course, throughout the West, this is exactly the habitat that has been converted into private ranchlands. Native wet meadows and riparian areas have been destroyed and particularly the low elevation terrain has been converted to alfalfa fields and other exotic grasses. Overall across its vast geographical range this loss of this critical habitat element has reduced sage grouse numbers just as the conversion to wheat fields has negatively impacted the bird.

HABITAT FRAGMENTATION AND FENCES

Sage grouse are vulnerable to habitat disturbance. Sage grouse are weak fliers. They prefer to walk. When there is anything like seeding projects or hay fields, or even a road, it can fragment habitat and make sage grouse either abandon habitat or avoid those areas, even if good habitat may exist beyond the barrier.

One of the linear barriers to sage grouse movement as well as habitat loss throughout sage grouse habit range is fences. A surprising number of sage grouse just fly into fences.  A number of studies have documented significant mortality from fences, particularly among young grouse.

Fences also provide perches for avian predators (i.e. golden eagles, hawks, ravens, etc.) that survey the surrounding terrain for sage grouse. Because sage grouse recognize that perches are a predator trap, some studies have shown that grouse avoid fences for up to a half mile on either side of the fence. That means for every mile of fence out there, you are losing a mile wide patch of habitat. Multiply this by all the livestock fences in the West, and you start to understand what a big impact fencing has upon grouse.

Why are there fences all over the open spaces of the West? One reason–livestock.

Of course sage grouse get their name because they eat sage brush most of the year. Without sage brush they starve. Plus sage brush provides cover from predators and thermal cover in winter when there is cold weather. This is particularly important in winter when “wind chill” can greatly increase metabolic demands. Grouse will even burrow into the snow under the branches of sage brush in cold weather. Thus they are sage brush obligates.

SAGEBRUSH CONTROL PROGRAMS

One of the biggest negative impacts on sage brush has been livestock management practices on sage brush itself. In many parts of the West federal agencies like the BLM, FS, etc. have and/or are either spraying herbicides and/or burning it to eliminate sage brush to produce more grasses for livestock to eat. Millions of acres have been impacted. This is less common today than in the past because of the potential listing of sage grouse, but one cannot underestimate how much damage has been done to the grouse over the years by sage brush elimination programs. Unfortunately it still occurs. Sage brush burning proposals designed to increase livestock forage in occupied sage grouse habitat are being implemented across western states.

There are also seeding programs that have had the same effect. The notorious Vale Project in eastern Oregon eliminated millions of acres of sage brush to plant crested wheatgrass, an exotic grass from Russia, that has little value for wildlife, but is grazed by cows. Again why was this done? To increase forage for livestock on the public lands.

CHEATGRASS-FIRES AND LIVESTOCK

One of the threats to sage grouse are range fires burning through sage brush. Wildfires are a natural occurrence and natural process in sage brush habitat, however, over the past few decades, the fire frequency has been greatly accelerated due to the widespread establishment of cheatgrass in the sage brush steppe. Cheatgrass is highly flammable.

Cheatgrass doesn’t magically appear and it has a difficult time invading healthy sage brush habitat.

However when sage brush steppe is degraded by livestock grazing, it reduces the competitive ability of the native grasses to complete with cheatgrass. Cattle prefer to graze on the native grasses (hence the name cheatgrass because in the old days ranchers felt “cheated” when cheatgrass replaced the natives). So while the native grasses are grazed and must recover from grazing, the cows largely ignore the cheatgrass.

The second factor in the spread of cheatgrass related to cows has to do with biocrusts. Biocrusts grow on the soil surface in-between the native grasses and sage brush. These soil crusts do several things including reduce soil erosion. But they also prevent the seeds of cheatgrass from getting into the soil. Cheatgrass as an annual plant has small seeds, and if the seed doesn’t get roots into the soil quickly they die. Native grasses have large seeds, and have enough energy to get roots through the crusts. Also since native grasses are long lived–up to 150 years–they only have to get a few seeds into the soil once a century to replace themselves.

By far the worst thing that cattle do is trample the biocrust. And it’s important to note that the entire Great Basin  did not have large herds of grazing animals like bison in historic times. The plant communities are therefore not adapted to trampling and heavy hooves tearing up the soil.

Worse for range recovery most native grasses require a decade without any grazing at all to begin to recover from a fire, but due to the pressure from ranchers, most rangelands seldom get more than 1-2 years rest before cattle are moved back on to them. This greatly reduces the recovery and favors cheatgrass again.

WEST NILE VIRUS

Another way that livestock has impacted sage grouse has to do with water troughs. In many of the drier parts of the West, ranchers have put out stock tanks to provide water. Stock tanks are good breeding habitat for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes carry West Nile Virus which kills sage grouse. In some populations, as much as 29% of the birds have died from the infection.

INBREEDING

As sage grouse populations decrease, the negative effects of inbreeding regression sets in further eroding the viability of the species. So it may not seem like a big deal if a few breeding leks disappear or there remain some “strongholds” with grouse, keep in mind that grouse are a tournament species, meaning that a relatively few males do the bulk of all breeding. This significantly reduces the genetic diversity in small populations, making them further likely to wink out.

States and Wildlife Agencies are engaged in these so-called “Sage Grouse Working Groups” to avoid listing under the ESA.   But, those groups ignore livestock impacts and management that would leave sufficient cover of grasses and forbs in riparian areas and meadows during the summer brood rearing season.  Further, these groups are channels for Federal tax dollars to provide more vegetation treatments, more seedings, more range water developments, fences and infrastructure while not addressing the basic problem, overstocking and poor to no direct control over livestock.

Rounding up wild horses to put cattle on the land

Eye witness reports:

“This video was taken at the BLM Antelope Complex “Gather” south of Wells, NV on 24-Feb-2011. We had just come from observing the BLM Contract capture 6 Wild Horse about 4 miles away. They said that there are too many Wild Horses on this range land. The range can’t support the estimated 2000+ Wild Horses. Yet as we left the capture there are 100s maybe a 1000 pregnant cattle just arriving onto the range. Hmmmm, does that make sense?”

Nevada ranchers suffer from self-deluded drought denial

cropped-MUSTANG-NV-Feb-8-2011.jpg

Data Backs BLM Manager’s Allotment Cuts in Face of “Cowboy Express” Protest

Washington, DC — A U.S. Bureau of Land Management District Manager from Nevada targeted by angry Nevada ranchers was more than justified in removing cattle from drought-stricken public rangeland, according to data released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Tomorrow, protesting ranchers start a “Cowboy Express” ride to Washington demanding removal of BLM Battle Mountain District Manager Douglas Furtado as an “abusive federal employee” even as conservation groups urge that Furtado be commended not condemned for his actions.

Like much of the West, Nevada has been in the grips of persistent drought, with nearly 90% of the state under “severe to exceptional” drought for three consecutive years. This, in turn, causes greater conflict over dwindling water and forage. Not surprisingly, Nevada has also become Ground Zero for rising tensions on range management as illustrated by this spring’s armed standoff with renegade rancher Cliven Bundy who has been illegally grazing his cattle in southern Nevada for more than a decade.

“We all know about climate deniers, but this is the first we’ve heard of drought deniers,” stated PEER Advocacy Director Kirsten Stade, pointing out that much of Furtado’s Battle Mountain District has been among the hardest hit by drought in Nevada. “If we are to believe the ranchers, an extreme, multiyear, regionwide drought has magically spared only their allotments.”

In July, Battle Mountain District Manager Furtado ordered livestock removed from parched range on the sprawling 332,000-acre Argenta allotment in northern Nevada after conditions fell below thresholds that ranchers and BLM had previously agreed would trigger removal. The ranchers contend that Furtado’s actions were arbitrary but an analysis of Geographic Information Systems and BLM data reveal range in terrible ecological shape:

Nearly every Battle Mountain allotment evaluated failed range health standards for wildlife and water quality, largely due to livestock grazing;

Half of the Argenta Allotment, and roughly 30% of the Battle Mountain District is habitat for sage grouse, a species being reviewed for listing under the Endangered Species Act. BLM has been directed to protect the species’ habitat but 90% of assessed sage grouse habitat was in Battle Mountain allotments failing standards due to livestock; and
Fence line contrasts visible in satellite imagery show that public lands in the checkerboarded allotment are far more heavily grazed than private lands, suggesting that ranchers are more protective of their own lands than they are of publicly-owned range.

“Doug Furtado should be praised, not pilloried, for doing his job,” Stade added, noting a letter of support sent today from PEER and Western Watersheds Project urging that BLM as an agency to do more to stand up for its employees when they attempt to protect public resources. “The Cowboy Express is actually a cynical attempt to use iconic imagery to mask selfish abuse of public lands. If ranchers will not be responsible stewards then conscientious land managers have to make hard decisions, as Doug Furtado has done.”

Western Watersheds Project intervened in the Argenta case when ranchers initially refused to remove their cattle despite their previous agreement. Even after an order from an Interior Department administrative law judge affirmed the BLM’s authority to remove the livestock, as many as 100 cattle remain on the Argenta allotment to this day.

“The rancher resistance to drought protections in Battle Mountain is aimed at preventing effective protection of public lands and sage-grouse habitats across the West,” said Katie Fite, Western Watersheds Project’s Biodiversity Director. “It is meant to intimidate other federal agency managers so that they turn a blind eye to habitat degradation.”

The records for all roughly 20,000 BLM allotments across the West, many of which show similar overgrazed conditions, will be displayed next month in a new PEER website documenting longstanding and serious ecological impacts caused by ongoing livestock overgrazing.

###

See the data on Range Conditions in the Battle Mountain District

Read letter in support of Doug Furtado

View the denial of the permittees’ appeal of BLM’s decision

Look at heavy hoof-print of commercial grazing in the West

All content © 2014 Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
2000 P Street NW, Suite 240 Washington, DC 20036

9/23 National Call-In Day to Stop BLM from Wiping Out Checkerboard Wild Horses in Wyoming

 

Share and TAKE ACTION today for Wyoming’s wild horses!

It’s MUSTANG MONDAY™! Contact Congress here: http://www.contactingthecongress.org/

National CALL-IN day is Monday, September 23rd! CALL and Ask your Congressional Representative and 2 Senators to STOP the WIPE OUT!

Wyoming’s wild horses must not end up in the SLAUGHTER Pipeline!!!

They deserve their land and their freedom! Send your comments in to BLM! Info here: http://protectmustangs.org/?p=5084 Canned comments don’t count! Please write your own and remember there is “No Evidence” of overpopulation according to the National Academy of Sciences. Request a Moratorium on Roundups for Population Studies!

The Wyoming travesty was mentioned in GASLAND 2. See the movie (http://www.gaslandthemovie.com) and share it with your friends.

SAVE Wyoming’s wild horses! They belong to all Americans because they are under federal control.

And WILD HORSE WEDNESDAY™ Let’s live chat the Secretary of the Interior and ASK for a MORATORIUM on Roundups for population studies because we need SCIENCE before any action! http://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDOI/bulletins/8be168#.UjydSFTKRBM.twitter

Sign the petition to STOP the Roundups! http://www.change.org/petitions/defund-and-stop-the-wild-horse-burro-roundups

 

Watch and Share GASLAND 2 http://www.gaslandthemovie.com/

 

 

BLM says it cannot track cattle on its lands

 

Cows in Nevada (Photo © Anne Novak)

Cows in Nevada (Photo © Anne Novak)

Blames Lack of “Seamless Data” for Excluding Livestock from Range Assessments 

By: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)

Washington, DC January 24, 2013 – The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) says it was an absence of “reliable data”—and not politics—that caused it to exclude consideration of commercial livestock impacts from multi-million dollar assessments of environmental conditions on Western range lands. BLM thus rejected the first scientific misconduct complaint filed against it by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), which today released a detailed rebuttal of BLM’s self-exoneration.

In a letter dated January 2, 2013, Louis Brueggeman, the BLM Scientific Integrity Officer, rejected the PEER scientific misconduct complaint filed more than a year earlier, on November 30, 2011. He concluded that the complaint had “no merit” since the decision to exclude grazing was reached independently by study team leaders (all BLM managers) solely for “technical reasons” relating to the “lack of sufficient existing data” about livestock impacts.

In reaching this conclusion, BLM ignored meeting minutes produced by PEER in which BLM managers are quoted saying that study of grazing impacts would concern “stakeholders” and the Washington Office due to “fear of litigation.” The claim that the real reason was lack of data does not hold water because:

– Attempts to exclude grazing began at the earliest stages of the study, before data availability was even examined. Further, BLM assertions of data gaps were never examined, let alone verified;
– Other factors being studied, such as invasive species, also have data gaps but these issues did not prevent invasive species from being selected as a study focus; and
– BLM managers hid the existence of a major livestock database which was never given to researchers.

“Caught with its pants down, BLM would have us believe it is wearing ankle warmers,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the $40 million study was the biggest in BLM history but will end up being largely useless. “As by far the biggest disturbance factor on Western range lands, commercial livestock grazing simply cannot be left out of a scientific landscape assessment.”

PEER today asked Dr. Suzette Kimball, the Scientific Integrity Officer for the entire Interior Department, to reject BLM’s findings and institute an independent review. This is the first scientific misconduct complaint filed against BLM under rules purporting to prevent political manipulation of science.

“Unless some standards of credibility are applied, agencies will be able to simply deny instances of scientific misconduct, no matter how well documented or compelling,” Ruch added. “This scientific integrity process will become a complete joke if BLM can get away with claiming ‘the cows ate my homework.'”

See the original scientific integrity complaint

View the BLM response

Read the PEER letter to Dr. Kimball

Examine line-by-line rebuttal

Look at the damage wreaked by commercial livestock

 

33 million Acres of BLM Grazing Allotments Fail Basic Rangeland Health Standards

LIVESTOCK’S HEAVY HOOVES IMPAIR ONE-THIRD OF BLM RANGELANDS

PM No More Roundups By Cat


Washington, DC (May 14, 2012) — A new federal assessment of rangelands in the West finds a disturbingly large portion fails to meet range health standards principally due to commercial livestock operations, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).  In the last decade as more land has been assessed, estimates of damaged lands have doubled in the 13-state Western area where the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) conducts major livestock leasing.

The “Rangeland Inventory, Monitoring and Evaluation Report for Fiscal Year 2011” covers BLM allotments in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.  The report totals BLM acreage failing to meet rangeland health standards in measures such as water quality, watershed functionality and wildlife habitat:

  • Almost 40% of BLM allotments surveyed since 1998 have failed to meet the agency’s own required land health standards with impairment of more than 33 million acres, an area exceeding the State of Alabama in size, attributed to livestock grazing;
  • Overall, 30% of BLM’s allotment area surveyed to date suffers from significant livestock-induced damage, suggesting that once the remaining allotments have been surveyed, the total impaired area could well be larger than the entire State of Washington; and
  • While factors such as drought, fire, invasion by non-native plants, and sprawl are important, livestock grazing is identified by BLM experts as the primary cause (nearly 80%) of BLM lands not meeting health standards.

“Livestock’s huge toll inflicted on our public lands is a hidden subsidy which industry is never asked to repay,” stated PEER Advocacy Director Kirsten Stade, noting that the percentage of impairment in lands assessed remains fairly consistent over the past decade.  “The more we learn about actual conditions, the longer is the ecological casualty list.”

Last November, PEER filed a scientific integrity complaint that BLM had directed scientists to exclude livestock grazing as a factor in changing landscapes as part of a $40 million study, the biggest such effort ever undertaken by BLM.  The complaint was referred to a newly appointed Scientific Integrity Officer for BLM but there are no reports of progress in the agency’s self-investigation in the ensuing months.

At the same time, BLM range evaluations, such as this latest one, use ambiguous categories that mask actual conditions, employing vague terms such as “making significant progress” and “appropriate action has been taken to ensure significant progress” that obscure damage estimates and inflate the perception of restoration progress.  For example, in 2001 nearly 60% of BLM lands (94 million acres, an area larger than Montana) consisted of grazing allotments that were supposed to be managed to “improve the current resource condition” – a number that has stayed unchanged for a decade.

“Commercial livestock operations are clearly a major force driving degradation of wild places, jeopardy to wildlife, major loss of water quality and growing desertification throughout the American West,” Stade added, while noting that BLM has historically been dominated by livestock interests.  “The BLM can no longer remain in denial on the declining health of our vast open range.”

The law was made to protect mustangs & burros so why all the abuse?

Wild horses and burros are supposed to be treated as “components of the public lands”. 16 U.S.C. § 1333(a) The law is clear that “wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death” and entitled to roam free on public lands where they were living at the time the Act was passed in 1971. 16 U.S.C. § 1331 These legally protected areas are known as “herd areas,” and are defined as “the geographic area identified as having been used by a herd as its habitat in 1971.” 43 C.F.R. § 4700.0-5(d).

 

The Wild Free Roaming Horse & Burro Act also authorizes designation of specific ranges for wild horses and burros. “Range’ means the amount of land necessary to sustain an existing herd or herds …and which is devoted principally but not necessarily exclusively to their welfare in keeping with the multiple-use management concept for the public lands”. 16 USCS §§ 1332(c), 1333(a). ~Animal Law Coalition

 

 

Why is the Bureau of Land Management (BLM),–the agency responsible for the care and welfare of wild horses and burros–allowed to break the very law enacted to protect our native wildlife and heritage animals?

If you don’t like the photos taken by witness and filmmaker Stephanie Martin at the Owyhee Roundup then please meet with your senators and representatives to ask them to stop the abusive roundups.

Is there really an overpopulation problem?

It’s long overdue for an independent and accurate wild horse and burro census for each Herd Management Area (HMA). BLM’s population estimates are only that–estimates. It’s easy to count cows as horses from the air and double count horses as they roam from area to area.

If there really is an overpopulation problem then using fertility control drugs on non-viable herds or sterilizing herds will be a disaster. Why? This would ruin their gene pool and result in inbreeding. Mother nature has a ‘survival of the fittest’ program in place that ensures only the strong, healthy and wise reproduce.

Current thriving natural ecological balance studies on the range are necessary. For decades wild horses have been scapegoated for the damage created by livestock–especially to fragile riparian areas. Cattle enjoy standing in riparian areas all day whereas wild horses come for a drink and leave for the rest of a day. Princeton University has proven wild herds reverse desertification so livestock benefits from more abundant forage.

The Appropriate Management Levels (AML) for wild horses and burros were set by the Government. The Cattlemen are a wealthy lobbying force in Washington. It’s no surprise that cattle outnumbers wild horses on the range at least 50 to 1 on HMAs throughout the West.

Currently the BLM uses archaic methods of range management which allow livestock grazing methods that are harsh on the land, a wide use of pesticides and extraction industry pollution. The range is being destroyed. Removing wild horses is the wrong action because the native equids can heal the range and reverse desertification.

What’s wrong with roundups

Helicopter roundups are harsh on the environment. Chasing wild horses creates unnatural stampedes zigzagging over 10-15 mile areas many times per day for many weeks. This ruins the high desert environment and disturbs species such as the sage grouse.

Rounding up more federally protected native wild horses than they can adopt out fails as a management technique. Wild horses and burros end up stockpiled in holding facilities at taxpayer expense. After the cruel roundups, wild horses loose what is most precious to them–their families and their freedom.

Solutions

Using Range Design, which includes Allan Savory’s Holistic Rangeland Management, is a viable solution for today’s range issues. More wild horses and burros should be allowed on the range to reverse desertification, reduce fuel for wildfires and create biodiversity. This ultimately improves rangeland grazing for livestock.

“Holistic Management using native wild horses, heritage burros and livestock should be used for rangeland programs across the West,” explains Anne Novak, executive director of Protect Mustangs. “It’s a win-win that works to heal the land, reverse desertification and reduce global warming”

BLM ducks complaint about suppressing livestock damage

BLM Land and Desert Sky (Photo © Anne Novak, all rights reserved.)

Landscape Assessments in Limbo after Scientists Told to Ignore Livestock Impacts


Washington, DC — The biggest and most ambitious scientific undertaking in the history of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is languishing after it was revealed the agency directed scientists to exclude livestock grazing as a possible factor in changing landscapes. The agency has also yet to respond to a scientific integrity complaint filed one year ago by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) charging that the exclusion of livestock data constituted political interference.

Launched in 2010 with more than $40 million in stimulus funds, BLM sought to analyze ecological conditions across six “eco-regions” covering the Sagebrush West. There was only one catch: when scientists were assembled BLM managers informed them that there was one “change agent” that would not be studied – the impacts of commercial livestock grazing. BLM managers told stunned scientists the reason for this puzzling exclusion was due to “stakeholders” opposition and fear of litigation, according to documents appended to the PEER complaint. Since that complaint –

  • These so-called “Rapid Ecoregional Assessments” have all stalled with no timetable for completion although they were slated to be finished this year;
  • To investigate the PEER complaint, BLM tagged Louis Brueggeman, its Fire Management Liaison, to act as “Scientific Integrity Officer.” It is not clear that Mr. Brueggeman has interviewed a single witness proffered by PEER. Nonetheless in an October 12, 2012 email, he said he was “in the process of finalizing the report” responding to the November 2011 PEER complaint; and
  • BLM now claims its studies are limited to “four overarching environmental change agents: climate change, wildfires, invasive species, and development (both energy development and urban growth)” but notes “Additional change agents may also be addressed based on ecoregional needs.”

What makes this last bit of revisionist rationale from BLM so questionable is that the agency’s own records show that the primary cause (nearly 80%) for BLM lands not meeting range health standards is damage from livestock, far eclipsing drought, fire, invasion by non-native plants or sprawl – the factors BLM now calls “overarching.” In fact almost 40% of all BLM allotments surveyed since 1998 fail to meet the agency’s own required land health standards due to livestock grazing – more than 33 million acres, an area bigger than the entire State of Alabama. Livestock occupies two-thirds of all BLM lands. Moreover, livestock is directly linked to aggravating drought conditions and spreading invasive species.

“After pledging not to repeat the pattern of political manipulation of science associated with the Bush years, the Obama administration has both embraced that pattern while striving to mask its manipulations though the charade of scientific integrity investigations,” remarked PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization has likened these investigations to damage control operations rather than objective scientific reviews. “Because they were financed with stimulus funds, these landscape assessments were described as ‘shovel-ready science’ – a term far more apt than originally envisioned.”
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Read unanswered PEER scientific misconduct complaint

Look at heavy landscape damage inflicted by commercial livestock

View the six Eco-regions being assessed in continental U.S.

Scan stalled schedule for assessments

See how Interior has politicized its scientific integrity program

Help California’s last wild horses stay on the range

Fire endangers wild horse habitat

Rush Fire photo August 20, 2012 (Photo © Phil Perkins)

Close to 300,000 acres of the Twin Peak wild horse range have burned as of midnight August 20th.

We are very grateful to the Rush fire crews working to contain the fire, protect the land, livestock, wild horses and burros and especially the community.

We ask the BLM to find a way to help the wild horses on the range by bringing them food and water as needed–until the forage grows back.

Rounding up California’s last herd of wild horses and removing them from their herd management area is wrong. We don’t want them to lose their legally designated range to livestock, energy and mining use. These other forms of public land use can move elsewhere for a while, if needed, but California’s wild horses need their home on the range.

Photo © Cynthia Smalley, all rights reserved

Rush fire info and map: http://inciweb.org/incident/3151/