East Pershing Complex Gather Plan Public Comment

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NEPA Document Number: DOI-BLM-NV-W010-2017-0009-EA

Location of Proposed Action: Pershing, Humboldt, Churchill, and Lander Counties.

Name and Location of Preparing Office: Humboldt River Field Office, Winnemucca Nevada Subject Code/Case File/Serial Number: 4700

Citizens Against Equine Slaughter finds that the BLM should choose Alternative C, or No Action on this proposed EA for the reasons outlined in this public comment.

Taking a preserve (HA) created by federal mandate and micro-managing herd management areas (HMA)within the HA was never authorized under any Congressional Act.

Micromanagement is defined as: ​to control every part of a situation, even small details. http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/micromanage So the entire HA is not managed as a whole ecosystem, therefore cannot achieve a thriving natural ecosystem pursuant to the WFRHBA.

Hence it is not managed like Yellowstone National Park where predators and prey and environment are interacting in a natural manner. It is also not being managed like Assateague National Park. Both of these National Parks are profitable and are both under the Department of Interior. The Department of Interior might ought to “tier” their learning. The point here is that a natural balance can exist and the DOI understands how to do this and how lucrative it is.

WHO CARES about comparing a non-native species such as Bovine from Asia with horses. This is patently ridiculous and irrelevant. What ought to be compared is the fact that cattle are non-native, and their mouths do not contain upper front teeth and hence pull on plants and hence destructive. Of ALL the other grazers being ruminants are lacking in upper front teeth, hence equines are needed and necessary grazers on the range, and moreover, less destructive. The horses act as a lawn mower would for a human maintained lawn, the physical act of mowing promotes healthy growth of the plant. Their roaming activity also promotes biodiversity when paired with their mowing. Livestock such as cows or sheep, wrap their tongue around a plant either tearing it or pulling it out by the roots, both of which do not promote regrowth.

Comparing cattle to wild horses is also ridiculous given the relative numbers. This comparison is clearly unequal protection under the law and is also not scientific.

The EA has been written under current LAW. If the LAWS change the EA needs to start ALL over again.

Crucial information is not provided in the EA to support the actions proposed in the alternatives, including but not limited to:

  • All ungulate numbers must be detailed over the last 50 yrs.
  • Rainfall must be detailed over the last 100 yrs.
  • All grazing permits must be detailed.
  • The BLM must provide the full detail on all and any sterilizations for male or female.

Gearing things principally toward the livestock industry is in fact unequal protection under the law as well as going against the principle use purpose of the WH&B Act.

The BLM hasn’t provided a feasible, humane, safe, transparent, and culturally acceptable alternative to promote a natural thriving ecology providing equal protection under the law.

CAES suggests the following Alternative :

On Range Wild Horse Management via predators or PZP only.

  • Helicopter usage only for application of PZP, one band at a time, in the areas where native predators are unacceptable to the BLM, for reasons which the BLM should detail
  • Bait trapping one family at a time for the purpose of darting is also humane and feasible
  • Addition of predators in the most remote areas where the BLM refuses to utilize PZP
  • Cameras on the bottom of helicopters in all directions
  • Mix 40 darts of PZP at one time
  • Dart one family at a time for a short period
  • Dartable PZP should be used

The FLPMA and PRIA both state that multiple use policies were to be used to determine land uses, however it also stated it would not override any other land use policy.

  • Sec. 101. [43 U.S .C . 1701 note] This Act may be cited as the “Federal Land Policy and​
    Management Act of 1976”. DECLARATION OF POLICY Sec. 102. [43 U.S .C . 1701] (a) The Congress declares that it is the policy of the United States that– (b) The policies of this Act shall become effective only as specific statutory authority for their implementation is enacted by this Act or by subsequent legislation and shall then be construed as supplemental to and not in derogation of the purposes for which public lands are administered under other provisions of law.
  • 43​ U.S. Code Chapter 37 – PUBLIC RANGELANDS IMPROVEMENT ACT of 1978 (a) The Congress finds and declares that— (c) The policies of this chapter shall become effective only as specific statutory authority for their implementation is enacted by this chapter or by subsequent legislation, and shall be construed as supplemental to and not in derogation of the purposes for which public rangelands are administered under other provisions of law.
  • Mountain States v. Hodel found that the 1971 law is in fact a land-use regulation; “In structure and purpose, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act is nothing more than a land-use regulation enacted by Congress to ensure the survival of a particular species of wildlife. At the outset, it is important to note that wild horses and burros are no less “wild” animals than are the grizzly bears that roam our national parks and forests.
  • “Herd areas meet the critical habitat criteria set for ACECs. § 1610.7-2 Designation of areas of critical environmental concern or ACEC, is a special designation created by Congress in the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act. That law directed the Secretary of the Interior and the BLM to designate as ACECs: “…areas within the public lands where special management attention is required… to protect and prevent irreparable damage to important historic, cultural and wildlife resources. The horses on our public lands have been determined to be wildlife in many court cases, Kleppe v NM, WHOANM V NMLB and above in Mountain States v. Hodel as well as by Congress in the 1971 Act itself!! Let us remember how many people supported the 1971 Act. Hence these are legally ​wild ​horses.

Many tribes also consider these wild horses as wild, as well as cultural historic properties under both federal and state Historic Preservation Acts.

Just as BLM did not and does not have the authority to micro-manage areas within the Herd Area, it also did not have congressional authority to combine Herd Areas or preserves to create complexes.

The EA speaks to 4 Wilderness Study Areas within the ‘complex’. We realize that as a native species wild horses should be in these WSA’s as an integral part of the public lands and the ecosystems in these WSA’s.

The Secretary must protect herds per the 1971 law. Thriving herds must be genetically viable.This complex is managed for 3 different HMA’s. None of the 3 meet genetic viability at the low end of the AML range. The AML’s need to be adjusted to reflect proper levels to be in compliance with the 1971 law of protecting these herds. ​“It was originally thought that an effective population size of at least 50 was necessary to avoid short-term inbreeding depression, but empirical work suggests that if maintenance of fitness is important, effective population sizes much larger than 50 are necessary. Theoretical studies suggest that the figure could be closer to 5,000 for several reasons….” https://www.nap.edu/read/13511/chapter/7#149​ The AML’s must be increased to reflect the base number for genetic viability. In some cases where herds are able to migrate back and forth between HMA’s this is achieved, but again if managed on the entirety of the HA this would happen naturally.

This brings us to the point that migratory routes were not considered in the areas designated in​ the 1971 law. As such many of the herds were cut-off from a natural breeding selection to prevent any inbreeding. This I also an issue with water sources. When the smaller HMA’s were designated within the preserve, horses were often then cut-off from natural water sources. Many times, private landowners were then contracting with BLM to provide water from their own water sources. This is a bit of the fox guarding the hen house. But the entire area or preserved being open to the horse will mitigate, water, forage, land degradation issues.

In the West Douglas Case (COLORADO WILD HORSE AND BURRO COALITION, INC v. Ken​ SALAZAR, DOI pg 8 the Court finds that BLM’s authority to “manage” wild free-roaming horses and burros is expressly made subject to “the provisions of this chapter” 16 U.S.C. § 1333(a), including the provision that “[i]t is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture….” Id.§ 1331. It would be anomalous to infer that by authorizing the custodian of the wild free roaming horses and burros to “manage” them, Congress intended to permit the animals’ custodian to subvert the primary policy of the statute by capturing and removing from the wild the very animals that Congress sought to protect from being captured and removed from the wild.

Helicopter stampedes are not what the original intent of the law was. That clearly means the authority given by the Burns Amendment went against the original law to begin with and that amendment needs to be challenged and repealed. In the meantime, helicopters that will cause deaths should not be considered as an option to roundup wild horses. It is not the minimum feasible option nor is it humane. And it also violates the animal cruelty laws of the state of Nevada.

Herd areas relevant to the exemption clause” of the 1976 Federal Land Planning & Management Act. Sec. 302(a) which says; in relevant part, “where a tract of the BLM lands has been dedicated to specific uses according to other provisions of law, it shall be managed in accordance with such laws.” i.e. Such as the intent of the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act. 1971 Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act, and the 1973 Endangered species Act.

The EA speaks to degradation by cattle and horses. It is clear that there are many morelivestock in this ‘complex’ area. And with the entirety of the HA or preserve managed principally for the wild horses, as WAS stated in the 1971 law, there would be one horse per 3,962 acres. That is using the low end of the AML range which is what is left on the range after a gather. This is clearly NOT managing the preserve principally for wild horses. We find that to be an egregious error in management. Right now, the number of acres to one horse, according to the total number of horses on the complex according to the EA, is 1 horse per 856 acres.

The EA also states the WFRHBA Act “mandates management of wild horses in a manner that isdesigned to achieve and maintain a thriving ecological balance…” We assert that a thriving ‘natural ecological’ balance cannot be achieved where there is land degradation from excess livestock grazing. Yet the EA does not provide the number of livestock on the preserve. So therefore, with the number of allotments, and the average number of cows permitted on these allotments, we assert that there is no principle management for wild horses, and the number of livestock permitted deviate from the mandate to have a natural ecological balance.

You also infer that there is a need “to prevent the unnecessary death of wild horses resultingfrom excess, which has not been proven in this EA, lack of water or forage, which would not be an issue if livestock were removed, fences were not keeping horses from natural water sources, and again the area is properly managed, principally for wild horses. If there is not enough water or forage, the livestock must be removed first not only for the wild horses but for all other wildlife in the area as well.

In section 1.4 of the EA we disagree that the No Action Alternative is contrary to the​ requirement under the WFRHBA to remove excess horses, because as stated above, the HA is not managed principally for horses, there is an unequal balance of protection for wild horses and burros that is a problem on all of the wild horse preserves and the BLM must stop favoring special interest corporations that want to use these public lands. We see that because wild horses do not make money they always take a back seat, and that is not in keeping with the intent of the law which was to protect the wild horses because in 1971 there were shockingly few left. BLM mistakenly seeks to manage for just above the population there was in 1971 when Congress was so shocked at the few horses left in the wild that the WFRHBA was passed unanimously. And the fact that there were at one time between 2 and 8 million horses here is never mentioned.

We have provided the House and Senate proof of the lies that we have tens of thousands of starving horses on the range, and not one BLM office, person or even politician supporting that claim have ever provided proof beyond the Cold Creek, human created incident, or an occasional horse that dies. These are wild animals and as such, some will die. The law of nature is that only the strong will survive, so managing for unnatural goals in years of drought could even be questionable, however because the predators have been killed in such mass numbers we believe that ‘some’ unnatural measures now must be in place. However, the foundation needs to be fixed to do that. “Blaming wild horses for the damage done on public lands by livestock, is like blaming people who put ice cubes in their drink for the disappearance of the glaciers.” – Erik Molvar, Executive Director, Western Watersheds Project

We want you to choose the No Action Alternative. Give the entire HA’s principle use for wild horses by adjusting the permitted livestock, even if that means waiting until the next RMP round. The WFRHBA gives the Secretary (and his appointed custodians) the authority to provide supplemental feed and water when needed, so that is the minimum feasible level of management. When livestock are in trouble, the government provides subsidies or assistance to make hay drops.

It is a violation of the Nevada Animal Cruelty laws to even consider spaying of mares, and thatoption will never be acceptable to the American people. When the mortality rate of stallions gelded is higher than average when done by the BLM there is no way spaying of a mare, a much more complicated surgery, should not even be considered.

The EA also stated that wild horses double in size every 4 to 5 years but your own census of these HMA’s does not support those claims. We agree with using fertility control, PZP for the herds, but we also recognize that statements have been made by the agency that PZP doesn’t work (it won’t work if you do not use it on enough mares to achieve the desired population growth reduction) it is too expensive, PZP native is about $27 per mare, and the horses can be bait trapped one family at a time. Doing this will reduce the recompensatory breeding, fighting of stallions, and trauma of breaking up family bands.

Again, you mention sterilization of mares in this via ovariectomy. We find this is violating the Nevada Animal Cruelty statutes. Ovariectomies in wild mares has been highly unsuccessful and resulted in mortality rates that were above the acceptable range of the American Veterinary Medical Association. When we researched this last year during the IBLA appeal on the BLM’s decision to do these types of experiments we found that doing them in non-sterile environments is also not pursuant to the laws. And this action could also cause a veterinarian to have their license revoked.

The EA is also not clear, in Alternatives A and B about whether the horses would be treated with fertility control vaccines, or if there would be geldings or if there would be mares spayed, and needs to outline the number of each of those actions in each HMA. The language pertaining to the specific actions to be taken is vague. Therefore, Alternative C must be chosen and no action must be taken for this and all reasons above.

Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to comment on this plan and provide some insight into what we believe is the best management that can be implemented moving forward to achieve the goal of healthy horses on healthy lands.

Respectfully submitted (as amended) this 12th day of July, 2017
Theresa J Barbour for Citizens Against Equine Slaughter
PO Box 115
Drain, Oregon 97435
541.315.6650

Patience O’Dowd or Wild Horse Observers Association
PO Box 932
Placitas, NM 87043

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