Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Animals' Angels investigation of BLM mortality discrepancies continues


Lack of accountability remains questionable 
The BLM has habitually demonstrated a complete lack of accountability regarding horse and burro mortality rates. Excuses include everything from incomplete and missing paperwork, to excluding deceased foals with the death tolls. If BLM's record-keeping is as palpable as they would have the public believe, why are there such imposing discrepancies?

As mentioned in our previous report, the Nevada BLM Office utilizes a rendering company to dispose of deceased horses and burros. The figures from the mortality reports of the Nevada BLM do not reconcile with the rendering company receipts

BLM Horses 1 

Hundreds of horses were unaccounted for. The BLM's Public Affairs Specialist Heather Jasinski rationalized this huge discrepancy in part by claiming that they do not count stillbirths (aborted fetuses, animals born dead and newborn animals found dead) and young foals that died before they were freeze marked, but also admitted that the "National WH&B Program is currently reviewing its reporting procedures for all aspects of the program and will modify them to correct any identified discrepancies."
BLM Horses 2
Our review of the mortality rates at the Palomino Valley Holding Facility in Nevada was alarming, but unfortunately just the tip of the iceberg. Received via Freedom of Information Act Request, the disposal information obtained from Utah, California, and Colorado BLM offices and landfills was enough to cause great concern. Upon reviewing the mortality reports, disposal protocols and landfill delivery sheets from January 2010 to May 2013, we were compelled to share our findings with the general public.
While each state maintained at least rudimentary mortality reports, there is absolutely no oversight whatsoever with regard to disposal. Landfills utilized by the BLM either do not keep disposal records, or refused to provide them to Animals' Angels; referring us to the BLM instead.  One landfill in Utah did respond to our request for disposal receipts, however, the receipts were for total tonnage and not by head count. Their receipts still didn't match the records supplied by the BLM. Without an outside agency keeping and/or providing disposal records, it is nearly impossible to know the true mortality rate of horses and burros within the BLM.

BLM Horses 3 

Per Mr Fran Ackley, BLM Wild Horse Program Lead, the Colorado BLM has an "assistance agreement" with the Canon City Correctional Facility. Prison employees pick up deceased horses and burros and take them to the landfill.This agreement was described as an arrangement that benefited both Government organizations in various ways, providing work for inmates and providing a service needed by the BLM.
Colorado BLM supplied Animals' Angels with copies of prison receipts, indicating a fee for this "service" being charged by the prison. Also included with this FOIA, were the facility/mortality reports. As per usual, the BLM's figures in Colorado often do not match the prison receipts. Animals' Angels requested a copy of the prison's records, but Mr. Jim Heaston, Head of the Department of Corrections Program, denied our request. 

Utah BLM also supplied Animals' Angels with mortality records for the DeltaGunnison and Salt Lake Facility. According to Juan Palma, State Director of the BLM in Utah, the BLM utilizes five landfills for dead horse disposal: Iron County Landfill, Sevier County Landfill, Millard County Landfill, Sanpete Landfill and Salt Lake Valley Landfill.  

Iron County Landfill
Per the BLM, disposal at this landfill was rare. There was no charge for disposal, nor were any records kept by either party. Associated numbers for the word "rare" are left open to interpretation.
BLM horses 4 

Sevier County Landfill
Per the BLM, there was no charge for disposal at this landfill, nor were any records kept. Exact totals were unknown.

Millard County Landfill

Per the Millard Landfill, records were not kept regarding horses/burros disposed of by the BLM. Sheryl Dekker, Office Manager at the landfill, also indicated that they did not invoice for the service and that the landfill does not monitor if & how many animals are delivered to their "flesh pits".

Sanpete Landfill
According to the BLM, this landfill was utilized quite frequently for dead animal disposal from the Gunnison facility. Per the Sanpete Landfill's Chairman Scott Bartholomew (who referred us to the UT BLM), records are not kept regarding the BLM's disposal. However, a portion of Utah BLM's internal records received with the FOIA included receipts for Sanpete. Money was exchanged for the service, but the BLM was again charged for tonnage, not for individual headcount, which makes it difficult to compare these figures with mortality report numbers. Exact totals are unknown. According to the mortality records, 131 horses died at the Gunnison facility in 2011. The Sanpete Landfill invoices indicate disposal of carcasses with a total weight of 56,780lbs.

Salt Lake Valley Landfill
The Salt Lake Valley Landfill provided BLM disposal records to Animals' Angels. This landfill was paid by the BLM for tonnage. The tonnage records provided by the landfill do not match the number of dead horses listed on the mortality records. For example, according to the mortality records, no horses died at the Salt Lake Facility between April and July of 2010. However, the landfill records show several BLM disposals during that timeframe.  

Incongruent record keeping by all entities proves only one thing: there is no way to accurately determine the death rates within Utah BLM, as concrete figures are completely unavailable.  

According to Amy Dumas, Wild Horse & Burro Program Manager, California BLM buries deceased horses and burros on-site at their holding facilities. The California BLM did providemortality reports for the Litchfield and Ridgecrest facility. Without any external audit system, confirmation and accuracy of these figures is subject to believing that they are undeniably true. Based on the other FOIA's we have received, it would be hard to imagine that the California holding facilities properly document the number of deceased animals.

In summary:
The public needs to understand the autonomous nature of BLM operations. Autonomy cannot be an attribute of a Government-run agency. Inaccurate documents, specifically those regarding mortality rates, lead to suspicion. If this was indeed a transparent agency, the numbers wouldn't lie.

Animals' Angels is awaiting FOIA responses from South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Oregon and Arizona. We will continue our investigation into the BLM's practices, and will update our report with our findings.  As always, we greatly appreciate your continued support.

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