Friday, November 21, 2008

The Dangerous Horse

UPDATE: 12/2/08
I wanted to clarify a bit of information regarding this posting. I recently had some correspondence with Cindy MacDonald, and the body of this posting was not an actual letter written to Dr. Albert Kane. The text below is basically a copy of 3 minutes worth of public comments given verbally by Cindy, regarding BLM's proposal to euthanize the gathered wild horses and burros at the recent National Wild Horse and Burro Advsory Meeting up in Reno, Nevada.

Thanks,
Eric Clayton

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Hello all -

This was an interesting posting from the American Herds blog, written by Cindy MacDonald. The following is a letter that was sent to Dr. Albert Kane by Cindy, regarding his recommendation to euthanize a 10 year old bay stallion from the recent Nevada Wild Horse Range gather (Nellis).

Eric

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Due to the November 17, 2008, National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board Meeting receiving International Live coverage thanks to funding provided by Horse Power of Nevada for Sierra Nevada Community Access Television's educational services, many have requested a written version of this public comment submitted to the Advisory Board.

Today, we gather to discuss what may be the "Final Solution" for over 30,000 wild horses and burros now warehoused in government pens; the end of a long trail of easily verifiable malfeasance of such magnitude that only a Congressional investigation could begin to reveal.

While I could spend my three minutes trying to cover hundreds of statistics and documents to expose BLM's "management" that has led to the supposed crisis of "excess" wild horses and burros whose very lives are now in jeopardy, instead I am chosing to speak for one that the issue of euthanasia is now a moot point, as he is already dead.

I hold in my hand a Memo dated July 28, 2008, written by Dr. Albert Kane, BLMs lead liason for their contract with Animal Plant Health Inspection Services. In this memo, Dr. Kane explains why he recommended euthanizing a 10-year old bay stud during the recent removals of the Nevada Wild Horse Range wild horses.

These are the reasons cited by Dr. Kane that authorized the killing of this wild stallion.

*He did not stay close or mix with other horses.

*He was very aggressive towards other horses.

*He ran past BLM personnel when they were trying to sort horses.

*He showed no fear or "respect" for humans.

*These characteristics were deemed more dangerous than "normal" wild characteristics.

Instead of releasing this one lone stallion back out on a range of 1.3 million acres, BLM supported Dr. Kane's recommendation to put a bullet in his head in case he was gathered again and posed the same "risk" in the future.

In reading the official documents published on Wild Horse & Burro Management over the last several years, it is easy to see, too often an utter lack of respect is given by those charged with safeguarding these magnificent wild animals held in trust for the American people.

It is also easy to see these government officials have no fear of the public, of blatantly subverting the laws that govern them or of being held accountable for their decisions.

And so, I would like to recommend following Dr. Kane's lead as the agency has become aloof from other people, have demonstrated extremely aggressive behavior towards wild horses and burros in the WH&B Program and therefore, they too should be "put down" to relieve the public's suffering from continued mis-management, as their wildly uncontrolled behavior is now posing a serious danger to the American people and to our wild horses and burros they were suppose to protect.


Cindy MacDonald
November 17, 2008


Click Here to read Dr. Kane's July 28, 2008 Memo that authorized the death of the 10-year old Nevada Wild Horse Range bay stallion.

Letter to Madeline Pickens

I wanted to share an interesting letter written by Cindy MacDonald to Madeline Pickens, regarding her recent proposal to possibly rescue the "excessive" horses. Now, for the record, I do not always agree with Cindy MacDonald and her opinions posted on her blog. I just thought that this viewpoint may interest some of my readers and wanted to throw it out there for you to draw your own conclusions.

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November 21, 2008


Dear Ms. Pickens:

I am writing to you today to address an issue that is very near and dear to both our hearts; the preservation and protection of America’s wild horses and burros.

You have graciously and generously stepped up to the plate to attempt negotiating a rescue for over 30,000 animals BLM has deemed “excessive”; the aftermath and consequence of aggressive management tactics strategically targeted at America’s herds that have now placed their very lives in peril.

While I commend your willingness and commitment to finding creative and humane solutions for those now captured and waiting to die, after deep contemplation of your proposal, conscience compels me to ask you to re-think your plan.

I was at the National Wild Horse & Burro Summit when you entered the room and announced your stunning proposal. You said you had just “jotted it down on the plane flight over” and from here, your idea has taken root.

Since then, newspaper articles have reported on your progress and details have begun to emerge as to where our wild horses may be headed under your wing.

They have reported you:

“want to create a permanent retirement ranch for the horses that could be open to the public.”

“[you are] negotiating to win control of more than a million acres of grassland in the West….”

“[planning] to acquire part of the land through private sale and the rest through a lease with the federal government”

“[looking at] several pieces of land costing $10 million to $50 million”

Retirement Ranch Planned for Wild Horses
Washington Post
November 19, 2008



“plan[s] to sterilize the horses on [your] land and will take any additional horses the federal government wants to cull from the wild herd”
New York Times ~ Editorial
November 20, 2008


Since your concern has focused so strongly on helping save our wild ones, perhaps there are some issues you have failed to consider.

Therefore, as a member of the public these majestic icons are held in trust for and who has been intimately involved in many of BLMs proposals that landed these wild horses and burros on “death row”, I am humbly asking you to expand your considerations to include very important issues that effect us and the continuation of our wild herds on public lands.

*Over the years, the herds and their lands have been stolen from us. Your generosity is legitimizing their theft and bailing BLM out from accountability.

*There are serious, serious questions that must be addressed nationally about the Wild Horse & Burro Program. Your proposal will allow long-standing management issues to continue to be postponed, ignored and buried that may very well decimate the long-term viability of America’s free-roaming herds if they are allowed to continue unchallenged.

*In this deal, you want to gain control of over 1 million acres of lands you may allow the public on. In other words, you become the “middle man” for what once use to be ours anyway. Have you considered how this may not help the American people or our children who were suppose to have the right to experience them wild and free too?

*The Washington Post reported your ranch could be open to the public. Could be? Are you negotiating the right to operate your ranch and their lives behind closed doors?

*Your proposal to take all the wild horses BLM “culls” forevermore will allow them to continue to take off an endless stream without question. When you take them in, do you plan to question or challenge why BLM authorized taking them from us to begin with?

*You plan to sterilize every single wild horse that comes through your gates. What will you do with your million acres when these non-reproducing herds grow old and die and cannot be replenished? Now BLM is planning on sterilizing almost every wild horse still left standing on public lands after their recent full-scale assaults to remove them. In ten years, how many wild horses do you think are going to be left to cull to add to your collection?

*How is it you plan to sterilize the mares? A lifetime contract with the United States Humane Society for their PZP? About how much would that be worth on an annual basis to them? Or are you planning to attempt to spay the mares instead? Do you know how invasive, traumatic, and expensive that is per mare? Do you know the percentage of mares that die from this procedure? If you don’t, you should look into what this would do to those in your care before rushing into this “option”?

*As time passes and the “Pickens Trust Fund” passes to other hands, will their new custodians choose to save them too or will the temptation to lease it back out to ranchers, oil, gas, mining or selling it to developers be their primary concern?

*Where are the wild burros in all this? Their populations and habitat have been decimated over the years under BLMs “care” who openly posts a population management objective that qualifies them for Threatened and Endangered Species Status. Will they be forsaken again? How will you sterilize them as PZP does not apply?

*Have you considered investing in public lands instead of moving our resources to your sole control? With the money you are willing to shell out for this project, have you looked into how many wells, water developments, grazing leases in already publicly established Herd Management Areas this could buy and be returned back to the American people instead?

*Do you know how many successful lawsuits could be filed against the BLM if there were only money available for good lawyers, money the average citizen does not have – but you do.

Do you really want to help the American people and our wild horses and burros? Do you really want to save them, to preserve them and protect them for future generations? To leave a truly philanthropic American legacy for years to come?

If so, PLEASE do not take your involvement lightly! Let more than your heart rule your actions by carefully considering what you may be doing ~ as once done, it cannot be undone.

There is no doubt you have the power to make a profound difference at this critical crossroads for our wild herds. Please use your power wisely.


Respectfully,
Preserve The Herds

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Dramatic Rescue for Doomed Wild Horses of the West

By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 18, 2008; Page A01

The unwanted horses seemed destined for death. The wheels had been set in motion to put down about 2,000 healthy mustangs, those in a federally maintained herd of wild horses and burros that no one wanted to adopt.

The Bureau of Land Management knew that euthanasia was a legal alternative, but officials were proceeding slowly, afraid of an intense public outcry. The wild horses had become too expensive to maintain, and cattlemen argued that turning them loose would be a drain on the already scarce grazing lands of the West.

Then yesterday, at a public hearing in Reno, Nev., to discuss the issue, a solution arrived on a white horse, so to speak.

Madeleine Pickens, wife of billionaire T. Boone Pickens, made known her intentions to adopt not just the doomed wild horses but most or all of the 30,000 horses and burros kept in federal holding pens.

Lifelong animal lovers, the Pickenses just a few years ago led the fight to close the last horse slaughterhouse in the United States/

Madeleine Pickens is looking for land in the West that would be an appropriate home for the horses.

She is working with the BLM staff to adopt the horses, said Henri Bisson, the bureau's deputy director, while the agency persuades Congress to shift $20 million in funding to feed and protect the horses now in captivity for another year. As backup to Pickens's offer, he said, two other groups, both animal rescue organizations, have expressed similar interest in adoption. "We are very hopeful that euthanasia won't be necessary this year," he said.

The news that Pickens and others intend to adopt the wild horses and burros was celebrated by animal rights groups, several of which were preparing legal challenges to prevent the government from putting the horses to death.

"Of course, I'm thrilled, obviously, that these horses are getting a reprieve," said Shelley Sawhook, president of the American Horse Defense Fund. "At the same time, we need to address the basic issue of how these animals got in this position in the first place."

Bisson said policymakers have to resolve the conflict between a law that permits euthanasia and a nation that is opposed to it. "This is a situation where we have to have a conversation about what the law requires," he said. "We're hearing from members of Congress they don't think euthanasia is an appropriate solution, but the law says, 'You shall.' " If people don't like what the law says, they need to address it. We hope we will find homes for all of these animals before the year is out and Congress will decide what it wants to do about the law."

Long an American icon and inspiration for song and story, the wild horse has special protection under a 1971 law. The federal statute calls wild horses "living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West" that should be "protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death." But the same law also requires the government to achieve "appropriate management levels" of roaming horses so they don't overwhelm federal lands -- and that's the part that has been vexing for bureau officials.

About 33,000 horses still roam wild on federal lands in 10 Western states. About half of those are in Nevada. The federal agency believes the range can accommodate only about 27,000 horses, and each year government-hired cowboys round up 7,000 to 13,000 horses and take them to holding pens in several states.


Right now, there are just over 30,000 horses in holding facilities awaiting adoption. Those 10 or older or those who have not been adopted after three tries can be sold without restriction under 2004 legislation.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Shiloh Mustangs

Augustus and Cortez, the BLM Mustang who is Shiloh's leader of the 'Wanderer" herd have become great friends. Cortez is a BLM Mustang who was rescued from slaughter from a feedlot near Phoenix, Arizona. He is owned by Jill and is given free roam of Shiloh. His wild spirit is beautiful to see!
Augustus and I have quite the bond, so we decided one day to forget about the halter, etc. I let Augustus loose on the 40 acres of land and let him play with Cortez! I watched him for hours.








Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bureau of Land Management: Effective Long-Term Options Needed to Manage Unadoptable Wild Horses



The following information is the "Summary" GAO Report for the Wild Horse and Burro Program. For the Full Report, visit the GAO website directly and click on the link under the recently issued products under November 10th, 2008.

The Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages about 33,100 wild horses and burros on 199 Herd Management Areas (HMA) in 10 western states. Under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, as amended, BLM is to protect wild horses and burros, set appropriate management levels (AML), maintain current inventory counts, and remove excess animals to prevent overpopulation and rangeland damage. Over the years, various stakeholders have raised issues about BLM's management of the animals on and off the range. GAO examined (1) BLM's progress in setting and meeting AML; (2) BLM's management of animals off the range through adoptions, sales, and holding facilities; (3) BLM's controls to help ensure the humane treatment of animals; and (4) what challenges, if any, BLM faces in managing for the long-term sustainability of the program. GAO surveyed and analyzed documents from 26 of the 44 BLM offices that manage wild horses and burros.

BLM has made significant progress toward setting and meeting AML (the optimum number of animals which results in a thriving natural ecological balance and avoids range deterioration). BLM has set AML for 197 out of 199 HMAs. Most of the field offices GAO surveyed considered similar factors in determining AML, such as rangeland conditions; however, BLM has not provided specific formal guidance to the field offices on how to set AML. Without clear guidance, BLM cannot ensure that the factors considered in future AML revisions will be consistent across HMAs. At a national level, in 2007, BLM was closer to meeting AML (about 27,200 animals) than in any other year since AMLs were first reported in 1984. The extent to which BLM has actually met AML depends on the accuracy of BLM's population counts. Nineteen of the 26 field officials GAO surveyed used a counting method which, researchers say, consistently undercounts animals and does not provide a statistical range of population estimates. Undercounting can put animals at risk and lead to increased program costs. The number of animals removed from the range is far greater than the number adopted or sold, which has resulted in the need for increased short-term and long-term holding. Since 2001, over 74,000 animals have been removed from the range, while only about 46,400 have been adopted or sold. Thirty-six percent fewer animals were adopted in 2007 than compared to the average adoption rates in the 1990s. As of June 2008, BLM was holding 30,088 animals in holding facilities, up from 9,807 in 2001. To accommodate the increased removals and declining adoptions and sales, BLM has increased the number of short-term and long-term holding facilities. BLM has implemented multiple controls to help ensure humane treatment, including random checks on adopted horses and agreements with adopters and buyers to prevent slaughter. Although BLM state offices collect data on the treatment of the animals, BLM does not always compile the information in its central database or report it to the public. Providing additional information to the public on the treatment of these animals could help inform the public about their treatment and improve transparency. The long-term sustainability of BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Program depends on the resolution of two significant challenges: (1) If not controlled, off-the-range holding costs will continue to overwhelm the program. The percentage of the program's direct costs for holding animals off the range increased from $7 million in 2000 (46 percent) to $21 million in 2007 (67 percent). In 2008, these costs could account for 74 percent of the program's budget. (2) BLM has limited options for dealing with unadoptable animals. The act provides that unadopted excess animals shall be humanely destroyed or, under certain circumstances, sold without limitation. However, BLM only manages these animals through sales with limitations. BLM is concerned about the possible reaction to the destruction of healthy animals.




Recommendations
Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Implemented" or "Not implemented" based on our follow up work.

Director:
Team:
Phone: Robin M. Nazzaro
Government Accountability Office: Applied Research and Methods
(202) 512-6246


Recommendations for Executive Action

Recommendation: To improve the management of BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Program, the Secretary of the Interior should direct BLM to finalize and issue the new Wild Horse and Burro Program Handbook that establishes a policy for setting AML to ensure that AML is determined based on consistent factors across HMAs into the future.

Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
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Recommendation: To improve the management of BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Program, the Secretary of the Interior should direct BLM to continue to adopt and employ statistically based methods to estimate animal populations across HMAs, such as those being evaluated by animal population researchers, to improve the accuracy of population estimates integral to BLM's management of wild horses and burros on the range and in planning for capacity needed for excess animals once they are removed from the range.

Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
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Recommendation: To improve the management of BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Program, the Secretary of the Interior should direct BLM to continue to track the number of animals harmed or killed during the gather process in a centralized database system and determine what information on the treatment of gathered animals, short-term and long-term holding animals, and adopted animals could easily be provided to the public to help inform them about the treatment of wild horses and burros.

Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
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Recommendation: To improve the management of BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Program, the Secretary of the Interior should direct BLM to develop cost-effective alternatives to the process of caring for wild horses removed from the range in long-term holding facilities and seek the legislative changes that may be necessary to implement those alternatives.

Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
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Recommendation: To address BLM's noncompliance with the act, as amended, the Secretary of the Interior should direct BLM to discuss with Congress and other stakeholders how best to comply with the act or amend it so that BLM would be able to comply. As part of this discussion, BLM should inform Congress of its concerns with (1) the act's requirement for the humane destruction of excess animals and (2) the possible slaughter of healthy horses if excess animals are sold without limitation, under certain circumstances, as the act requires.

Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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Statement of the Bureau of Land Management
on the Government Accountability Office's Report
"Effective Long-Term Options Needed to Manage Unadoptable Wild Horses"
(posted at www.gao.gov on Monday, Nov. 10, 2008)


The Bureau of Land Management welcomes and concurs with the findings and recommendations of the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The BLM is committed to the protection, management, and control of wild horses and burros, as mandated by the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.

The GAO report notes that the BLM has made "significant progress" toward setting and meeting the appropriate management level (AML) of wild horse and burro herds that roam BLM-managed rangelands in 10 Western states. The Bureau is committed to clarifying its guidance to field offices in establishing AML for the herds under their jurisdiction; the BLM is also committed to improving its existing direct-count method for counting animals on the range, which currently results in an undercount of the population.

The GAO report correctly depicts the difficult situation that the BLM finds itself in with regard to maintaining unadopted or unsold animals in holding facilities. These costs are spiraling out of control, accounting for three-fourths of the Bureau's wild horse and burro budget of $37 million. (Note: For further information on the budget crisis facing the BLM in managing wild horses and burros, please see: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/wild_horse_and_burro/new_factsheet.html)

The GAO report correctly notes that the BLM has limited options for dealing with unadopted and unsold animals within its finite budget. One option is to humanely put down animals for which no adoption demand exists, as directed by the 1978 amendments to the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act; another option is to sell "without limitation" horses older than 10 and those younger that have been passed over for adoption at least three times, as directed by a December 2004 amendment to the 1971 law. The GAO recommends -- and the Department of the Interior and the BLM agree -- that the Bureau should initiate discussions with Congress on addressing the BLM's noncompliance with these directives in the 1971 law, as amended.

The BLM has made no decision regarding the use of either or both of these legal options. No decision will be made until after the next meeting of the agency's National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, which meets on November 17 in Reno, Nevada.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Augustus and Latigo

Howdy all! Wow, its been a while since I have made a posting. I apologize, just been crazy busy as I am sure all of you have been, and I am still adjusting to having my hands full with two horses. But, all in all it has been a great start to November. Augustus is finally coming around a bit and tolerating Sawyer more and more each day. I can actually walk them all around the property at the same time now without them trying to kill each other. When you think about it, its easy to see why Gus would be jealous. I was "technically" the first human contact Gus was exposed to, at least with the love language and building that human/equine relationship. If you saw us on our first day together and saw us now, and know how inseparable we have always been at Shiloh, I bet it has been quite the experience for Gus. I may hop on Sawyer by next weekend and give a shot at ponying Gus and see what happens. I haven't had the chance to ride Sawyer since the adoption due to some wounds he received after being moved to pasture and being the new kid on campus. So, with the weather getting cooler and cooler out here, it has made for some very enjoyable days out at the ranch. Pretty soon though we will all be bundled up, facing that freezing wind and driving through a snowy mountain pass. Can't wait. :) The happenings with Gus and I at Shiloh have been good though. We have been doing alot of learning and playing with our playground area and taking some time to try some new techniques and obstacles. Augustus is such a fast learner!! It only takes once or twice and he is a master at a new concept. We will be getting down to business over the next few months though and by the time the summer comes around, I think Gus will be an old pro and well saddle broke. He is growing so fast it seems too. He was 14:1 a few weeks ago and still has plenty of time to grow. Mustangs are not generally a tall breed, but I think Gus still has alot of potential. He has longs legs which is very promising, and I can only keep my fingers crossed and hope that he grows into his "hay belly". :) The following pictures were taken over the last few weeks. Since it has been a while since the posting, I wanted to include a few extra pictures this time around. The action shots are of Gus and a Shiloh "Wanderer", Latigo. I hope you enjoy! :)