Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Pickens Wild Horse Plan: Betrayed?

Straight from the Horse's Heart

Posted: September 11, 2012 by R.T. Fitch
Commentary by Bonnie Kohleriter
 Mustang Monument or Mustang Tombstone; Your Comments Needed
3 HMAs destroyed, wild horses gone forever ~ photo of Antelope Complex taken by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation
Three sanctuaries for our nation’s wild horses in Elko District NE Nevada, known as Herd Management Areas (HMAs), are soon likely to be zeroed out. The Mustangs in the Spruce Pequop, Goshute, and Antelope Valley HMAs, numbering 434 at their upper management level, will be rounded up and removed. Gone will be their legal lands and legal homes. Gone will be their family bands that have supported and protected them. Gone will be the stallions as producers and protectors, the mares as nurturers, leaders and educators, and the foals as learners. Fractured and separated, all will go to different pens, to barren feedlot corrals, and the stallions will begelded.
In exchange, the champion of “Saving America’s Mustangs”, Madeleine Pickens will replace these Mustangs with some 500 gelded, all same sex, horses that have come from corrals marked as “excess” horses. It’s almost an even exchange, 425 true Mustangs for 500 gelded all same sex horses. Madeleine Pickens’ Foundation, SAM, will manage these gelded horses while the BLM continues to be the owners of them.  You and I, the taxpayer, will get to help our government and the foundation of a billionaire. The taxpayer will help 1) by paying taxes to maintain these horses year after year, and the taxpayer will help 2) by paying taxes to erect a fence around the public’s 508,000 acres that will house these proposed geldings. The 508,000 acres are permitted for use by Pickens because she purchased 14,000 acres next to them. But you see, it is these very fences, intersecting the three HMAs, disallowing the wild, reproducing horses in them full accessibility to their space, forage, and water, that will cause the demise of them in Spruce Pequop, Goshute, and Antelope Valley.
We now have an opportunity to comment on Madeleine Pickens’ Foundation’s proposal regarding the housing of the geldings, the fencing, and the outcome of the Mustangs whose lives, as they know it, hang in the balance. The committee to evaluate this proposal wants specific suggestions for consideration or any and all information that would help provide for a thorough and accurate analysis of this proposal. I would hope horse advocates could give well thought-out suggestions to the committee so that both the three HMA groups of horses can remain on the range and the gelded horses can be within Madeleine’s allotment. Please provide your data in a “Scoping Comment Letter” by September 19, 2012. These comments will be used to develop an EIS or Environmental Impact Statement. This Statement will encompass alternative possibilities to which the public can comment again sometime around July, 2013.. Please submit specific ideas to the following:
Bureau of Land Management
Elko District
Attn: Eco Sanctuary Comments
3900 E Idaho Street
Elko, Nevada  89801
E-mail: EcoSanctuaryComments@BLM.gov or FAX: 775-753-0385
Time permitting, read the public scoping brief to more fully understand the proposal. Go to www.blm.gov/rv5c; clique on Proposed Northeast Nevada Wild Horse Sanctuary Project Page; clique on Public Scoping Brief. For more information you can also contact the Project Lead: Terry Dobis at 775-753-0290.
On April, 23-24 at the Advisory Board Meeting, Dean Bolstad,  Deputy Division Chief for the BLM WHB Program,  said two eco sanctuaries were in the works, one in WY soon to open and one in NV, Madeleine Picken’s Foundation known as SAM or Saving America’s Mustangs.  He said both would have non-reproducing herds. Two advisory board members questioned whether there could be a small reproducing herd in Madeleine’s Sanctuary, as those kinds of horses are the real Mustangs and those kinds of horses could be used for research purposes. Dean said “No”, but perhaps a reproducing herd could be a part of a different eco-sanctuary in the future. Is this already a done deal?
Then on August, 30th, 2012, at a scoping meeting in Reno, Zach Reichold, the National BLM State Lead,  was asked whose idea it was to have a non-reproducing herd.  He said it was his and Dean Bolstad’s idea.  The idea is to trade out cattle AUMs for horse AUMs as Madeleine has 14,000 acres of private land and 508,000 acres of public land that has been designated as a cattle allotment.  The trade out would not be 1 for 1 as horses supposedly digest differently than cows, but as much as 1 for 1.8.  909 cattle are allowed on this acreage now so 909/1.8 or 505 horses would be allowed for 12 months on the 508,000 acres.  It is interesting that, for over 40 years, the BLM has used 1 AUM for both cattle and horses, but now that is changed.
Brian Fuell, the Field Manager for Elko, who was also at the scoping meeting, said the fences around Madeleine’ allotment are not contiguous now.  They are not in places where the cows would be unlikely to go but where the horses could go. If gelded horses instead of cattle are put in this allotment, then the allotment needs to be fenced in its entirety so the horses can’t leave. That would result in the HMA horses having their HMA lands dissected. Suggested was that the fences be placed  around the HMAs where the HMA land butts against the allotment land, but Brian Fuell countered with three comments.  That kind of fencing would carve up the allotment not making it easy for the proposed gelded horses to move easily. (Why not was my thought? The cattle do it now and there would be even less horses.) Secondly he said, the fencing would not allow the horses to move from HMA to HMA as they do now. (They are not supposed to move from HMA to HMA as they can be rounded up and removed if caught out of their HMA was my thought). Lastly, he said the forage is good in the HMAs but the water is sparse particularly in Spruce and Goshute. Madeleine has wells she has developed on her allotment which are right on the other side of the HMAs if the fencing were put where the HMAs are adjacent to the allotment.  (So why can’t she place the fencing so that some of the wells can be used by the proposed gelded horses and some by the HMA horses. She has the right by law to have Mustangs on her property She is into “Saving America’s Mustangs” both gelded and still on the range was my thought).
It is interesting to note the hunters, recreationists, and miners will not be affected by this proposal.  The mule deer, the elk, the pronghorns and the variety of birds also won’t be affected.  The fences would be designed so as not to impede their movement.  Only the wild horses, the Mustangs , would be affected.
Now Madeleine Pickens has a proposal but the public can’t see the proposal until a final decision is made on the proposal by the Project Committee from Elko and Amy Leuders, the State Director for the BLM in Nevada, who will make the final decision.. Yet the public is supposed to comment on the proposal in a scoping letter due September 18, 2012. I get the idea the public is supposed to comment because the law says that is the way the process should be done, but in reality, it doesn’t matter what the public says. It will be the way the National BLM Chiefs, the Elko Directors, and Madeleine Pickens want it to be. It will be a place to put gelded horses who have been in corrals and have been removed from other range areas; and  it will be a place where wild horses who are there now,  will be rounded up and removed from their range to corrals. (Makes sense)
The problem is what to do with the 3 HMAs that intersect her public property of 508,000 acres where proposed geldings will be.  The BLM is talking of “restructuring” those HMAs. 1) Spruce Pequop, with an AML of 48-80 horses, is 94% within her public property in the north end of her
allotment.  If she fences that property within her public property for her geldings, then the 48-80 truly wild horses can’t sustain themselves on the remaining 6% of property outside her public property. 2) Goshute, with an AML of 74-123 horses, is 27% within her public property on the east side of her allotment. Here her fencing runs down the HMA from the north to the south. 2/3 of the land of this HMA, left after fencing, could not support an AML of 74-123.
3) Finally Antelope Valley with an AML of 130-231 is 14% within her public property in the south end of her allotment.  If she fences that property separating her public property from the other BLM lands, the fencing will dissect the west side of the Antelope Valley from the east side.  Brian Fuell, the Field Manager for the Elko District, says Madeleine has no water in her area of the Antelope Valley HMA proposed to be sectioned off, but Debbie Coffey, an advocate into researching water rights, questions that idea.  Fuell also suggests the Antelope Valley HMA can be attached to the Maverick Medicine HMA on the west side and to the Antelope HMA on the east side to then do away with the Antelope Valley HMA. Maverick Medicine has little water according to the WHB Specialist, Bruce Thompson. The question is, is it even legal to place non-reproducing animals in their legal HMAs that are meant for wild, free-roaming, natural, reproducing herds?
The survival of Herd Managed Areas( HMAs) with viable herds appears to be at a critical point.  Once at 339 HMAs, these areas are now down to 165 where horses and/or burros exist managed by the BLM.  In the 165 HMAs are 182 herds as some HMAs have both horses and burros. Dr. Gus Cothran, is the geneticist retained by the BLM to evaluate the genetic health of the herds. He states a minimum of 100+ breeding age adults are needed to maintain diversity and the continued viability of a herd. In a recent analysis of Cothran’s work from 2000 to 2011, only 53 herds out of 182, were identified as requiring low allowable numbers above 100 (AMLs) and, in fact, having numbers above 100.  Out of the 53 only 11 were burro herds. To bolster the continuance of the other herds Dr. Cothran suggests in fluxing horses from other herds.  The 1971 law says the horses are to be “where found,” yet this practice appears to be widespread within the BLM and questionably illegal.
Wild horses are not horses in isolation.  They are individuals within a social matrix for survival and for insuring their future beyond themselves through reproduction…stallions as producers and protectors, mares as producers too as well as nurturers, leaders, and educators, and foals as learners.  To accomplish these tasks in the wild they form bands with a stallion, a few mares, and foals in one kind of band(s), and bachelor stallions in another kind of band(s), waiting to challenge the stallion with the mares.  Gelded horses don’t have that kind of social matrix. They move in small or large groups with concerns only for their food.
Madeleine’s eco-sanctuary with gelded horses won’t show the true nature of Mustangs as wild, free-roaming animals.  They likely will be herded from area to area to preserve the forage much like livestock are managed. Madeleine’s eco-sanctuary will be a place to put geldings that have been removed from their legal lands. As such she may well be encouraging the BLM to remove even more Mustangs from the wild. Madeleine’s eco-sanctuary or foundation will be equivalent to long term holding wherein animals are kept in same sex groups and are rotated from pasture to pasture; and the foundation will be paid some, as yet undisclosed, amount of taxpayer’s money to house the horses. However, is this even legal to do using the public lands and not her private lands, as all the other holding facilities are required to do? This eco- sanctuary is advertised as SAM or Saving Americas Mustangs but is it really? Three true sanctuaries or HMAs for true Mustangs will be threatened toward extinction as she builds her publically paid for fences.  These fences will deny these Mustangs their legal space, forage, and water for the future forcing them to have to be removed from their HMAs.  It is hoped the public will speak up loud and clear.  These HMAs have to be preserved as they are, or be enhanced in any decision that is made concerning Madeleine’s eco sanctuary promoting “Saving America’s Mustangs.” Wouldn’t it be amazing to go to her area to view both Mustangs preserved in their natural habitat on their rightful and legal HMAs as well as to see horses rescued from corrals.

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