CAES responded to Bureau of Land Management Plans to release only 66 horses on the Oregon Warm Springs HMA. This is what we had to say:
Thank you for the opportunity to submit these public comments on the above-referenced DNA for the release of wild horses onto the Warm Springs, HMA in Oregon.
We have the following concerns with this DNA
- The Environmental Assessment (EA) doesn’t meet NEPA requirements.
- The Decision of Record (DR) approving removal horses from the Warm Springs Herd Management Area (HMA) was vacated, making the initial removal of 846 horses illegal which should warrant releasing all gathered horses back to the HMA until an EIS is completed.
- This Determination of NEPA Adequacy (DNA) is not adequate where range health and genetic health are both much more relevant than the EA previously done addressed.
- Genetic anomalies that are seen as a result of inbreeding was never mentioned. A genetic analysis that is up to date must be done before considering removal of 88% of the herd/genetics.
- The numbers are not consistent in your own reports and statements on the number of horses considered excess
- The census numbers for remaining animals is inconsistent.
- The AML set for this HMA is clearly arbitrary.
- This DNA is clear retaliation
- The stated list of reasons for not putting the horses back for various reasons in 2019 covers January through December, which creates doubt that horses will ever be put back out there. When gathers are done you do not follow these same stipulations which show a clear favorability to removing horses, but definitely not for releasing any. Any waiting for the mares to foal, foals to be weaned and then taking them away from the mares to only release the mares is animal cruelty and also ensures the likelihood of very few foals being on the HMA this year. With very questionable genetics already in this herd, this is very bad management.
These are the restrictions you listed for releasing horses:
- BLM can’t return horses now or until approximately May or June because the roads are not good enough
- Can’t return mares that are pregnant March – June because well, they might deliver on transport? (They gather and transport pregnant mares routinely)
- Won’t return mares with foals because of danger to foals on transport (They transport foals routinely)
- Won’t return mares until foals are weaned and ripped away from mares 4 – 6 months after birth (so no returns from March – June until after 4 – 6 months later which would be as late as December
- No returns during fire season June through fall
- No returns if there is not adequate water (to be assessed in flyovers in June) even though forage is good and water on one half is good, the other side was questionable, and the solution is the removal of a livestock fence between the 2 sides of the HMA
- No mares returned who were not pregnant, they could be sterile (erm the original plan was to return nearly 30 sterile mares wasn’t it?)
- No stallion released without a mare released to keep a 50/50 sex ratio (unnatural and why can’t they release 33 stallions and release 33 mares as they can be based on their other fake conditions)
- AND BLM retains the right to alter, change, nullify, or create a whole new plan even if this one is passed
Doesn’t meet NEPA requirements/ Determination of NEPA Adequacy (DNA) is not adequate
The final EA and DR were subsequently vacated which makes the removal of the horses in the first place an action that was done with a then vacated decision of record. The horses should all be returned to the HMA until such time as a new EIS is done.
The EA did not address the emergency need for removal due to the health of the horses. There was some mention of water issues on the west side of the HMA, however, that was not going to stop 100 horses being released on that side of the EA for the study. So, obviously, the water issue is not real, or plans to remedy that problem were canceled because there is now no study.
You said: “this determination of NEPA Adequacy (DNA) assesses whether the 2018 EA adequately analyzed the environmental impact of permanently removing wild horses and burros from the Warm Springs HMA, the proposed return of horses to low appropriate management level (AML) for the HMA, and the treatment of mares to be 2 returned to the HMA with porcine zona pellucida (PZP).”
The EA did not analyze permanent removal of all horses from the HMA, it analyzed the removal of all horses and the return of 200.
There has been no environmental impact study (EIS) on the removal of 88% of the herd permanently. And to do that we feel an EIS, not an EA must be done. We feel it must compare the total number of all grazing animals, wild and domestic, and the financial comparison of each proposed action should also be a factor in the proposed actions. Financial aspects figure into the human element of the environment, especially when figuring the reduction of livestock to mitigate water problems or the removal of a fence. Would removing the fence be more of a hardship on the permittee with livestock than it is on the taxpayer who pays to house and feed the horses who cannot be on the land.
The BLM must provide the number of livestock on the HMA, the number of all other grazing wildlife species on the HMA, and the AUM’s allotted for each, including wild horses, for forage use.
BLM needs to explain why fencing is not removed if it is impeding horses from getting to water on various parts of the HMA, there and why the fence is not removed. If the fence is not to be removed what BLM is doing per applicable laws to provide water improvements to the west side of the HMA. That would also remedy the previously mentioned problem of impassable roads to vehicles hauling water. But BLM still has not justified how water was going to be provided during the study, but cannot be done now. Are only horses being studied managed?
The removal of 846 horses was vacated
“This DNA in no part replaces or relies on the 2018 DR, which was vacated in its entirety.“
Based on this statement, the entire DR was vacated meaning the horses you removed is a decision that was vacated and all of the horses should legally be returned.
The final gather reports indicated a very high number of horses euthanized due to genetic issues. Where are the genetics studies, and how do you justify removing from 852 horses (Your census estimate per Appendix E of the EA) all but 96 horses, if there were 30 horses left on the HMA post gather. That is removing almost 88% of the genetics from the herd when the final gather report clearly stated horses were euthanized because of a genetic issue. The largest of which being angular limb deformities which are a KNOW inbreeding issue.
A new genetic analysis must be done before a reduction to below the recommended numbers for genetic viability is done. Even with 850 plus horses in this herd, there are genetic issues. That should bring into question the science you are using to manage these herds as self-sustaining herds. Until there is a scientific answer to the genetic problems with this herd, and given that all removed were in average to above average body condition, this herd should not be reduced at all, but a reduction by 88% is criminal mismanagement. It definitely does not meet with a decision that has used the best available science.
Census numbers and removal numbers do not add up or are inconsistent
You said: “…conditions that caused the BLM to determine that approximately 652 animals were excess and needed to be removed from the range remain present and necessitate the current decision.” Since 845 were removed per your final gather report this would mean that 193 horses should be returned as they were not determined to be excess.
On January 31, 2018, you said:
“Because the goal of this gather was to capture up to 100 percent of the horses, the contractor spent many hours and days flying the HMA and was able to collect a good estimate of the remaining horses on the HMA (25-35). Not post gather survey was conducted by BLM because we were confident in the pilot’s count.”
So where do these new statistics of 30 horses and 30 burros left on the range come from? This statement does not say 25 – 35 of each horse and burro, therefore it is our belief there were 25 – 35 animals, combined horses, and burros left. Where are the pilot’s statements that there were 30 each? Those need to be made public.
The EA said you would return 200 horses, 100 to each the east and west sides of the HMA, it did not say 200 minus 30 horses that are out there or 200 minus any left out there post gather. So 200 should be released. We recognize that some of the mares to be released would not be reproducing mares, and that would have some effect on future population, so we recommend that at least those 28 – 34 mares be treated with PZ vaccines before release, and it could easily be done, and boosted before they are released.
The AML is Arbitrary
If the study could release 200 horses, and the land could support those 200 horses, how do you justify now only being able to support 75 horses despite saying the range conditions continue to be the same as when they were gathered? Does this mean if the sterilization of 28 – 34 mares, and releasing those mares in the 200 for the purposes of the study would have had to be halted because of new range conditions? If so there has to be a full EIS done to determine the health of this range because your EA obviously failed in determining whether or not this range could support the 200 horses to be released according to the EA that was done.
Also as we stated in our opposition to the EA this HMA, should not have been created as a bubble within the original HA to be the only place horses are managed on the entire HA, and multiple use mandated in FLPMA only applies to lands that are not already set aside for use in a previous land use policy or act which is what the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act is. Therefore removal of horses to this level is not in keeping with your mandate to manage this area principally for wild horses, in fact, they do not even get an equal amount of forage, water, and land allotted to them.
This DNA is Retaliation
This action shows clear retaliation on the part of the BLM after not being able to proceed with the mare sterilization study that was to be done. The EA that was approved for that study stated 200 horses would be returned to the HMA.
According to court documents during our IBLA Appeal, this decision to release less than half the horses approved for release in your DR was predetermined if you did not win the case we filed against the mare sterilization and removal of too many horses from the herd. See Sharp Declaration at Pg. 6 where you stated: “IF BLM is unable to carry out the surgical procedures, it would not return all 200 wild horses involved in the study back to the HMA.” This further proves our assertion that the AML is arbitrary, and this action is retaliatory and not based on science.
BLM plans to do the study, after removing horses, used this emotional bribery to try and get us to drop the case, did not respond to our assertions in the case that there was a genetic problem and removal of so many horses was inappropriate, but then asks for a redaction, and ignores the fact that they just illegally removed horses with no approved DR. NOW, you again try to push a predetermined decision on the public and the horses without following appropriate laws or the best available science. Moreover, you are not managing for the health of this herd or their survivability on a genetic level. Where is the ON Range Management? Removals are not sustainable.
- An EIS be done
- A water improvement plan for the west side of the EA be done, or the fence be taken down separating the 2 sides of the HMA
- A genetic study is done to determine the cause of the extremely high number of genetic anomalies seen and resulting in the euthanasia of horses after the gather.
- The AML to be reevaluated and adjusted, and an update to the LUP be done to reflect that change.
- This herd is managed at a more appropriate management level of 175 – 200 horses, with on range management tools such are PZP which can be darted via helicopter or bait trapping a family band at a time. Although if the vast majority is released and mares are already darted and boosted it will not need doing again for at least 3 years.
Theresa J Barbour
Research & Legal Consultant
Citizens Against Equine Slaughter
PO Box 115
Drain, OR 97435