Thursday, August 23, 2012

Combination of Welfare Cattle and Fires could Spell Extinction for Wild Horse and Burro Herds

Straight from the Horse's Heart

Posted: August 23, 2012 by R.T. Fitch
Guest OpEd (IMO) by Grandma Gregg (SFTHH Exclusive)
“… why would the BLM allow the fire to continue burning and not put it out quickly?”
Magic and his mare, Hope, near fence one year ago…the same area the fire swept through last week with the horses still unaccounted for ~ photo by Grandma Gregg
The Twin Peaks Herd Management Area fire (Rush fire) might have started with lightening but allowing it’s non-stop devouring of 313,911 acres (so far) was a management decision.  Why do I think that?
The Herd Management Area does have peaks and valleys but is generally gentle slopes with mainly grasses and sage with some juniper trees (see photo).  The over-story (tree cover) in most places is so lacking that a person can see for many miles in most directions.  I have some fire and heavy equipment background when I tell you that a lowbed truck and trailer hauling in a fire dozer could easily and safely get to most areas on the Herd Management Area.  A forest fire often jumps from tree top to tree top and is very difficult to put out but this was not a forest fire – it was a high desert fire.  A few rings around the fire would have made an efficient firebreak before it got past the very first day – a couple of hundred acres along with some dousing of hot spots and the fire would have been out.
So … why would the BLM allow the fire to continue burning and not put it out quickly?  Let’s look at the history and management issues and future of this and other public lands and ask ourselves some questions.  Twin Peaks is completely covered by grazing allotments – nine of them. Based on year round usage, only 18% of the forage is designated for wild horses and burros and the remaining 82% is given away to livestock. In the minds of livestock ranchers, any and all wild horses and burros are taking the forage right out of their livestock’s mouths and the money out of their pockets.  By the way if history repeats itself, all the burned grazing allotment fences will be replaced using our tax dollars, and the ranchers will also be able to apply for extra federal cash subsidies because of the fire and their “losses”.  Follow the money.
The grazing allotments on the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area are crisscrossed by lots and lots of fences and cattle guards – all are a potentially death trap for wild horses and burros caught in a firestorm.  Since the livestock use the public forage why would it help to let it burn?  Because the fire will have burned the majority of the native forage – sage and juniper and grasses – the BLM will claim the erosion control will become the utmost concern before the winter arrives.  That makes sense, but exactly what are they going to plant for the erosion control?  If the BLM follows its most recent policy it will seed with non-native, genetically altered grass seed especially useful for livestock.  Starting to ring any bells yet?
The great basin sage-steppe wild lands are an important natural resource, including critical habitat for sage grouse among other native wildlife.  Ah Ha!  Another species that the BLM will be glad the fire destroyed – the sage grouse itself and its natural environment.  So the fire got rid of three of the major head-aches for the BLM – Wild Horses and Burros, Sage Grouse and the native Sage and Juniper habitat.
It appears to me that although the land itself may be damaged from the fire for a while, the seeding and then of course chemical herbicides that will be applied for the next few years to eradicate the unwanted cheat-grass will ultimately make a lot of money for large biological chemical companies and the livestock permitees and the final result will be the BLM will have a clear slate for energy extraction, wind and or solar or whatever other money making deal they can arrange behind the public’s back – and into their pocket.  Oh … did I mention that at the tax-payers’ expense the fire contractors (dozers and water trucks and fire crew kitchens and even showers) are all paid big dollars per day that they are on the fire … the more days … the more money.
Then to top it off, the BLM will then say the land is not feasible to manage for Wild Horses and Burros.  Their next step will be to remove any remaining Wild Horses and Burros that were able to survive this tragic fire.
Please understand that I highly respect and appreciate all the fire-fighters on this or any fire.  They risk their lives every day they are out there fighting and they hold a very high place in my mind and heart.  It is the agency’s corrupt decision-makers MIS-management of our land and our wildlife and our Wild Horses and Burros that disgusts me.
In summary, the BLM’s behind the door decision to allow our Twin Peaks Herd Management Area land and it’s wildlife and Wild Horses and Burros to be decimated is a win-win for BLM management and a lose-lose for our wild ones and for you and me.

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