PLC Has a Cow Over Montana Grazing Changes!

The Public Lands Council issued a news release today condemning a decision by the BLM to change the livestock type and grazing seasons on seven allotments near the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in the northern half of the state.

The project began with the acquisition of base properties by American Prairie that secured grazing preference on the allotments.

American Prairie then submitted a plan to the BLM to graze bison on those allotments.

Refer to Map 1-1 in Appendix A of the Final EA for the arrangement and Section 1.1 for an overview (pages 93 and 7 in the pdf).

The Allotment Master Report puts five of the allotments in the Improve category, one in Maintain and one in Custodial.

The Authorization Use Report shows five of the allotments permitted for cattle and two for indigenous animals.

The long-term effect of bison on rangeland health is not known.

The BLM news release said the allotments currently provide 7,969 AUMs across 63,500 public acres, or 125 AUMs per year per thousand acres.

That resource would support ten wild horses per thousand acres (125 ÷ 12).

The government has stated repeatedly that public lands in the western U.S. can only support one wild horse per thousand acres (27,000 animals on 27 million acres).

The Virginia Range was carrying ten wild horses per thousand acres before the advocates got involved.  Now they’re forcing the herd into the government box.

Additional Comments Sought for Pryor Management Plan Update

Comments submitted during the scoping period in 2020 need not be resubmitted, according to today’s news release, but an additional document regarding genetic diversity has been posted to the project folder for public review.

The goal is to improve herd genetics, but not at the expense of ecosystem sustainability and the available resources.

The Western Watersheds map shows the WHR is surrounded on three sides by grazing allotments, both Forest Service and BLM.  Grazing does not occur inside the WHR.

Pryor Mountains WHR Map 03-30-22

The map does not show the portion of the WHR managed by the Forest Service.

Bringing in horses from other areas dilutes herd identity.

It’s a management trick that boosts genetic diversity while keeping herd sizes small, a nod to the public-lands ranchers.

In the future, you won’t be able to adopt a Pryor Mountains horse, only a horse captured in the Pryor Mountains WHR.

RELATED: Comments Invited on Pryor Management Plan Update.

Rising Price of Hay Explained

The following video, produced for the Nevada Rangeland Resources Commission, offers two possibilities (4:42 to 6:39).

  • There are too many horses on the range – Ranchers are removing livestock from their allotments and feeding them on their own property, increasing demand
  • There are too many horses off the range – The government is removing them from the same allotments and feeding them in holding facilities, driving up demand

Can both be true?

The sad part is that the ranchers must operate their businesses on their own land and pay the going rate to feed their animals.  Nobody in this country is expected to do that.

The price of hay in this area is now around $125 per AUM.  This comes as a shock to the ranchers, who have been insulated from the realities of a free market, at least on the cost side, for decades.

World events and the ill-advised policies of the current administration have no effect.

Although probably not intended by its producers, the film shows how to fix the Wild Horse and Burro Program: Confine the ranchers to their base properties and let them pay market rates to feed their animals.  No more gravy train, no more sucking on the government teat.

UPDATE: Video replaced by newer version.

Motorized Equipment Hearing in the News

This story by KLAS News of Las Vegas notes that the online meeting will consider the use of helicopters in the management of wild horses and burros, which Dina Titus and her supporters want to ban.

Roundups will still occur and resource allocations that strongly favor the public-lands ranchers will not be changed.

It’s a stupid idea which explains why the advocates like it.

H.R. 6635, the ‘Save a Horse, Hire a Cowboy’ Act, was introduced in Congress on February 7 and referred to the House Natural Resources Committee.

RELATED: Public Hearing Next Month Regarding WHB Management.

How to Estimate the Carrying Capacity of HMAs

The method has been demonstrated numerous times on these pages:

  • Identify the allotments that intersect the HMA
  • Determine the forage assigned to livestock inside the HMA
  • Convert that amount to wild horses
  • Add the result to the current AML

The third step yields the number of animals displaced from the HMA by permitted grazing—adopted, sold or shipped to long-term holding.

The final value is the True AML, the number of animals the area could support if it was managed principally for wild horses, as specified in the original statute.

Today’s news release by the BLM regarding the FY 2023 budget suggested that AMLs represent carrying capacities, which they do not, except for four HMAs where permitted grazing does not occur.

The advocates don’t want you looking at the numbers because the rationale for their darting programs would fall to the ground.

You don’t ask a poor man how to get rich and you don’t ask the advocates how to save wild horses.

RELATED: White House Seeks $153 Million for WHB Program in FY 2023.

Land Can Only Support 04-21-21

White House Seeks $153 Million for WHB Program in FY 2023

The expenditure would be part of a $1.6 billion budget for the BLM according to today’s news release.

The amount requested for the program next year exceeds the amount authorized this year by 11.7%.

The fiscal year begins on October 1.

The announcement said the current population of 86,000 animals is more than three times greater than the carrying capacity of BLM-managed lands, which is false.

The current population is three times more than allowed by plan.

Consider this metaphor: Wild horses can use one bedroom but they’re currently using three.  It’s a six bedroom home but they didn’t tell you that part.

The other five bedrooms are reserved for privately owned livestock, the illegal aliens of America’s public lands.

RELATED: BLM to Receive $137.1 Million in FY 2022 for WHB Program.

WMI Reader Says ASNF ‘Jumping Mouse’ Horses Not Near Alpine

Is Dallas near Fort Worth?

The trap zone is closer to Alpine than Dallas to Fort Worth, by a factor of two, despite the statements in a column dated March 25.

ASNF Trap Zone Near Alpine 03-27-22

The horses moved into the area, which includes habitat for the New Mexico Jumping Mouse, after the 2011 Wallow Fire, according to the report by ABC15 News of Phoenix.

RELATED: Any Accountability to Public in ASNF Wild Horse Roundup?

Any Accountability to Public in ASNF Wild Horse Roundup?

A public affairs officer for the Forest Service described it as a law enforcement action, but will the agency release any information from the crime scene as the suspects are apprehended?

The capture and removal goals, for the initial phase of the project, are 20 and 20, and the pre-gather population is thought to be around 400.

Unknown at this time:

  • Number of animals captured
  • Breakdown by age and sex
  • Number of deaths
  • Number of animals shipped
  • Number of animals returned to forest
  • Forage assigned to livestock in the protected area

A closure notice still appears on the ASNF alerts page but Western Horse Watchers was unable to find any progress reports for the roundup.

Curiously, the Restricted Area (trap zone) does not appear on the ASNF closure map.

RELATED: Jumping Mouse Habitat Subsumed by Permitted Grazing.

ASNF Jumping Mouse Allotments 03-24-22

New Public Lands Foundation Actually ‘BLM Foundation’

The news release dated January 19 referred to the nonprofit as the Foundation for America’s Public Lands but the formal name is the Bureau of Land Management Foundation, according to §1748c of FLPMA.

Apparently, the idea did not win enough support in Congress to pass as a standalone bill, so it was attached to the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, the same way the Wild Horse and Burro Task Force was established earlier this month.

Language in the 2017 spending bill was dropped into FLPMA as an amendment.

The Foundation was authorized to

  • Borrow money and issue bonds, debentures, or other debt instruments
  • Enter into contracts with public agencies, private organizations and persons
  • Carry out any activity necessary and proper to advance its purposes

As for conflicts of interest, members of the Board or officers or employees of the Foundation shall not participate in the consideration or determination of any question before the Foundation that affects the financial interests of the member, officer or employee, or the interests of any corporation, partnership, entity or organization in which the member, officer or employee is an officer, director or trustee, or has any direct or indirect financial interest.

RELATED: New Public Lands Foundation to Tackle ‘Challenge’ of Wild Horses.

Public Hearing Next Month Regarding WHB Management

The BLM announced yesterday that an online meeting regarding the use of motorized equipment has been set for April 26.

Statements will be taken during the meeting but require advance registration.

Written comments can be submitted by email.

A requirement for public hearings appears in §1338a of the statute but Western Horse Watchers was unable to find a provision for meeting frequency.

The use of motorized equipment was authorized in 1976 by FLPMA, the first of several amendments to the WHB Act.

Helicopters are the fastest way of shifting resources back to the public-lands ranchers.

The Montana Solution can achieve the same results but over a much longer timeframe.

Jumping Mouse Habitat Subsumed by Permitted Grazing

The animal was listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2014, according to information provided by the Forest Service, due to habitat loss and fragmentation.

In 2016, the agency designated critical habitat, which includes streams and wetlands in parts of New Mexico, eastern Arizona and southern Colorado.

Approximately 7,713 acres of the Apache-Sitgreaves, Santa Fe and Lincoln National Forests are within the critical habitat, which is overlapped by 14 allotments.

Management actions are designed to ensure that public-lands ranching can continue in close proximity to the protected areas.

However, data for two of forests show that grazing occurs in the protected areas!

In Lincoln, three allotments covering 140,588 acres include 986 acres of critical habitat, but only 209 acres (21%) are off limits to livestock.

In Santa Fe, six allotments covering 180,212 acres contain 2,056 acres of critical habitat, with 615 acres (30%) inaccessible to livestock, at least in theory.

Figures for Apache-Sitgreaves were not provided.

The complaint brought by the Center for Biological Diversity may have been prompted in part by failures of livestock exclosures, barriers that keep large animals out.

If the fences were in good condition, horses would not be able to enter the protected areas either.  But only a fraction of the protected areas are actually protected.

The fences can be repaired but the horses have to go, not to save an endangered species, but to protect big game and the most noble and deserving non-native species on America’s public lands, privately owned livestock.

And, as usual, the advocates, in offering to help the government get rid of the horses, come down on the wrong side of the issue.

RELATED: Jumping on the Jumping Mouse Bandwagon.

Jumping on the Jumping Mouse Bandwagon

The complaint against the ASNF wild horses was brought in 2019 by the Center for Biological Diversity in response to deteriorating conditions in the New Mexico Jumping Mouse habitat, but others now see it as an opportunity to advance their agenda.

A column in the Kingman Miner dated March 22 arguing for their removal describes the headwaters of the Black River, the area where the traps have been set, as some of the best elk and mule deer habitat in Arizona, referring perhaps to its hunting potential.

A story by the White Mountain Independent posted March 22 included remarks from a rancher who said the horses need to go because they’re robbing forage from his cattle.

Then, as noted yesterday, the advocates roll in, offering to facilitate the removal while keeping the remaining herd in check with the Montana Solution.

RELATED: ASNF Wild Horse Removal Now Law Enforcement Action.