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You Be the Judge, 5th Edition, Jan 15. 2010 – Ruby/Calico Questions Answered by BLM…

Posted by Texas Mustang Project on January 15, 2010

You Be the Judge
5th Edition
January 13, 2010
By: Tracie Lynn Thompson

Following the last edition of You Be the Judge, I just couldn’t get past some of the things that kept popping up. So, as usual, I had to ask. I received a lot of emails and phone calls asking a lot of questions. They ranged widely at first, but then a pattern started to emerge, and I was able to narrow them down to a few questions that encompassed the overall gist of things. Once I did that, I sent the questions to BLM personnel and officers, who in turn sent them to Gene Seidlitz, Winnemucca District Manager. 

Before I go into the answers that I received, I want to remind the readers of these very important points:

*I personally do not claim that the statements reported in this series are true or false. I only report what has been relayed to me personally for the purposes of allowing as much information as possible to be available to anyone and everyone who wishes to see.

*I do not “pick sides”. My personal opinions and position on this issue have already been made, but for those who have not seen this information, please see “Clarification of My Position”.

*I am neither an employee nor an agent of any government agency, nor am I am affiliated with any certain advocacy groups or organizations. Therefore, I do not speak on behalf of any of the employees or members. I make it a point specifically to not speak on behalf of anyone as I would not want anyone speaking on my behalf.

Now that we have that established, on with the show.

The following are the questions I posed along with their answers from Mr. Seidlitz on behalf of the BLM, verbatim.

Q. Why are horses and burros removed, but more grazing permits are sold for cattle/sheep?

A. Livestock
Livestock grazing on public lands is authorized under the
Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976. Each authorized permittee is issued a 10-year permit (typically) known as a Grazing Permit/Lease that outlines the number of animals, period(s) of use, total amount of livestock grazing use (usually stated in Animal Unit Months (AUMs) commonly referred to as the “grazing preference”), the location where livestock are authorized and other terms and conditions. By law (Taylor Grazing Act), public land grazing permittees holding a Grazing Permit/Lease are allowed to graze livestock on the public lands.
Generally working cooperatively with BLM to manage their livestock grazing for on-the-ground conditions such as drought, fire, lack of water/forage, etc., livestock permittee’s make adjustments in their livestock management to account for those conditions. The adjust use must be in compliance with terms and conditions outlined in the 10-year Grazing Permit/Lease. In general, for the past decade or more, the annual use made by livestock permittee’s has been less and in some cases substantially less than livestock use (grazing preference) described in the Grazing Permit/Lease.
In the Calico Mountain Complex gather area. There are 4 grazing allotments on which 5 livestock grazing permittee’s hold 10-Year Grazing
Permits/Leases. The total use (grazing preference) for the 5 permittee’s authorized to graze livestock within the complex is 21,872 AUMs. For the
past 4 years (2006 through 2009), the average actual livestock grazing use made on the complex has been 46% of the Grazing Permit/Lease allowable level, as shown below. 

These figures were derived from the EA for the gather.
         Average Actual Use Made     Grazing Permit/Lease Level     Percent of Permit/Lease Level Made
             10,141 AUMs                                21,872 AUMs                                              46%

These figures demonstrate that while wild horse numbers continued to rise during the same period of time above the Appropriate Management Level (AML) (discussed below), the actual livestock use made was less than half of the allowable livestock grazing preference.
Livestock Grazing Permits/Leases are changed, as appropriate, based on a comparison of on-the-ground conditions to land health standards commonly referred to as “standards”. Area-specific land health standards were developed by BLM’s Resource Advisory Councils (RACs) in the mid- to late-1990s. The standards address functions of the ecosystem important to maintaining the health and productivity of the rangeland. Such  components include properly functioning riparian/upland areas; soil and plant conditions which support infiltration, soil moisture storage and control release of water; hydrologic and nutrient cycling, water quality and threatened/endangered specie habitats.

Using monitoring information collected over several years, an evaluation of the monitoring information against the land health standards is completed. If a particular standard is not being achieved, a causal factor(s) (i.e., livestock grazing, off-highway vehicle use, wild horses, mining, etc.) is determined and, as necessary, adjustments in management of that factor are made. If livestock grazing is determined to be the causal factor for not meeting a specific standard, then the grazing management of livestock in that allotment is adjusted as appropriate to address that standard. Such adjustments might include, changing the use period, numbers of livestock, water distribution, etc. If the management change results in a reduction of the permittee(s) grazing preference, the change is implement by issuance of a formal decision as outlined in the 43 CFR Subpart 4160.

Wild Horses
The wild horse population Appropriate Management Level (AML), which is normally stated as a range, is established through BLM’s land use planning process. The upper level of AML represents the maximum number of wild horses authorized to graze in a Herd Management Area (HMA) or complex while maintaining the natural ecological balance with other uses of the rangeland. Resource Management Plans (RMPs), which are developed through a public participation process, outlines BLM’s general management direction for a particular area (usually a BLM District) for a period of 15 to 20 years. 

As necessary, RMPs may be amended, again using a public involvement process, to make necessary adjustments. As part of BLM’s on-the-ground management, when the number of wild horses and/or burros on a specific HMA or complex are determined through census to exceed the upper level of AML, the population is gathered to reduce the population to the low level of AML. The population is reduced to the low level of AML to allow 3 to 4 years of population growth before the upper limit of AML is reached or exceeded. For longer term management, if, through a land health assessment/evaluation process (described above), wild horses and/or burro are determined to be a causal factor for one or more of the land health standards not being met, then the AML for that Herd Management Area (HMA) would be adjusted using BLM’s land use planning process.

Q. Is the BLM removing deer, bison, or other types of wildlife from the HMA’s? If not, why? (The argument, “The other species of wildlife are not hurting, so how can the BLM say the horses are hurting due to diminished range conditions?)

A. Regarding the removing of dear, bison or other wildlife from the HMA’s, the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) manages the wildlife numbers and the BLM manages the habitat. Without specific wildlife population numbers and/or hunting tags for these HMA’s I cannot speak to population numbers (increase, decrease or static) and/or hunting tags and weather they have been reduced, increased or remained static. If needed, I can coordinate with the local NDOW for this information.
The purpose and need of the Gather Plan EA is to remove excess wild horses from the complex and to achieve a thriving ecological balance. Prior to the gather and as of today, we do not have a balance. The excess horses have and continue to adversely impact the upland, stream bank riparian and wetland riparian habitats. In the early 2000’s, the BLM initiated and completed an Allotment Evaluation/Rangeland Health Assessment and a
determination was made that both livestock and wild horses were contributing to not meeting the Standards for Rangeland Health. More recently, our monitoring of the complex has shown that adverse impacts are occurring to the habitats and water sources. We do not have a thriving ecological balance within the Complex.

Q. Huge one: The Ruby Pipeline… Everyone wants to know if the reason for these gathers is to make way for the Ruby Pipeline as its proposed route runs through several HMA’s where gathers are proposed in the near future.

A. Some of the information which is posted and/or out there is inaccurate. In reference to the FEIS for the Ruby Pipeline Project, which was released on 01/08/10, Conservation Measures: To minimize impacts to wild horses, Ruby would implement one or more of the following measures:

•Install a soft plug or crossovers every 2,500 feet or closer depending on water sources to facilitate wildlife movement;
•Minimize the time the trench is open to decrease the potential of wild horse and burro entrapment;
•Leave the major horse trails across trench intact as long as possible to minimize loss of movement to habitat;
•Be sure to close the fence gaps to restrict movement outside of the HMA;
•Install crossovers at existing fences within the grazing allotments;
•Ensure that workers and other site personnel are educated regarding the federal protection of wild horse and burros and are aware of the penalties associated with  harassment of wild horses and burros; and

•Post warning signs on access roads in areas known to have wild horses and burros to warn Ruby construction workers and to help minimize the risk of accidental vehicle/animal collisions.

Q. Why are there still reports and pictures and videos being released showing BLM personnel using paddles or other tools to strike the horses? Just last evening, I received report of a stallion being “flogged” by gather personnel in order to push him through the chutes.

 A. The reports of paddles and flogging are being misrepresented. The contractor and the BLM do use the paddles/whips with bags tied to the end of them to move the animals while they are in the corrals, chutes, and/or being loaded and/or unloaded from trailers. The noise paddle and the bags on the end of the whip are used to make animals move. It may appear that the animal is being flogged but the animal is not being struck. In order to have an efficient and effective operation, the movement of wild horses does occur in a humane manner by the helicopter and staff. 

After I reviewed these answers, I found that I had more questions. (This is so often the case.) So I composed another email, this time directly to Mr. Seidlitz as he was the author of the answers above. I also posed some of the same questions to the project directors at Ruby Pipeline, LLC.

These questions can be read here: Follow Up Questions YBTJ 5th Edition Jan 15 2010

The contact information for the Ruby Pipeline, LLC. Project Directors can be found here.

Just as soon as the answers to these questions arrive, I will be posting them to the blog as the next Edition. I cannot say how long that will be, but we can all cross our fingers and hope that it won’t be too long.  

As for the answers provided above, I will stick to my rules, for now. As the information becomes available, I will report them as I have these pieces to the puzzle.

As always, stay safe… And never give up!

Thank you,

Tracie Lynn Thompson

© 2010 Tracie Lynn Thompson. All rights reserved.


One Response to “You Be the Judge, 5th Edition, Jan 15. 2010 – Ruby/Calico Questions Answered by BLM…”

  1. […] promised in the 5th edition of You Be the Judge, answers have been received from the directors of the Ruby Pipeline Project. So let’s get right […]

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