Thursday, February 17, 2011

BLM budget cut: opinion

Some people might be celebrating at the news of budget cuts to the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse program.  Though the cut is just a drop in the bucket -- two million compared to billions that are cut from other programs -- Dan Burton says that he hopes it will force the BLM to “treat the mustangs in a humane way.” 

Critics say that program costs have been increasing.  Instead of using this rise in costs to fix the management problem, the BLM continues to round up horses off the range and add to the cost of long term holding.  According to this article, 40,000 are held in holding off the range, while only 30,000 are left in their “natural habitat.”  Since the horses have been protected since 1971, these increasing numbers of captured horses versus free-roaming horses are a reason for many concerns.

What is the BLM to do if this cut is approved?

Increase allocation to horses while decreasing livestock grazing permits?  Allow the horses to populate on the delicate semi-arid and arid ecosystems?  Reinstate the provision allowing the Secretary to destroy: (1) old, sick, or lame animals; (2) excess horses and burros for which an adoption demand does not exist in order to cut funding of long term holding? 

Two million dollars does not seem like much, but I have heard through the grapevine various people express their concerns that it may have an impact on horse gathers and horse management overall.  I refer back to something I read recently in Federal Public Lands and Resources Law by Coggins, Wilkinson, & Leshy.  Upholding the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act has not been a pretty story and has often been condemned as the product of “mindless emotionalism.”  Horse management appears to be continuing on this difficult tract led by public outcry and concern for this feral species. If it was any other animal than a horse, management would be eradicating them, not continuing to protect them. 

This rather cynical opinion (or at least it feels that way to me) may be due to my sleep deprived state (who told me grad school was a great idea?), but it still irks me that outcry, driven purely by emotions and not fact, or seemingly any ounce of reason, has such a strong power over our government.  If funding is to be cut, it should be based purely on well-thought economic decisions of necessity or science proving that horse populations are at appropriate numbers and gathers not needed for many herds.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Horse deaths at Indian Lakes road holding facility

I read an RT Fitch post this morning written by Maureen Harmonay, Equine Advocacy Examiner. It was stated that horses were dying at the Indian Lakes Road holding Facility near Fallon, Nevada as a result of secondary pneumonia. Mostly in the younger horses. This has been a common problem at this facility for the past year, according to what Harmonay found.

Another problem has been hyperlipemia, which Harmonay states is caused by the BLMs gather operations.

In a repeat of the pattern that emerged at the same facility after last year’s Calico Complex roundup, other horses are starting to die or be “euthanized” as a result of what the BLM’s veterinarian characterizes as “hyperlipemia,” a condition of metabolic and liver failure caused by the extreme stress of the helicopter chase, entrapment, and ongoing captivity.   Four of the horses who died at Indian Lakes Road in recent weeks were deemed to have perished from this roundup-related condition.
Now, I am not going to argue that this disease might have been brought on by the stress of gathers.  But, following the link that was provided it states "Poor feed quality or decrease in feed intake....Onset of disease is associated with stress, decreased feed intake, fat mobilization and deposition in the liver, and overproduction of triglycerides, which may be precipitated by insulin resistance."  I find, following the link that they even provided, Harmonay has left out something that might have been a major contributor to why these horses fell ill.  Decreased feed intake.

Why is it these activists never step back and look for underlying causes?  It was probably brought on by the gather operations, yes, but why?  The Calico horses were rated as a 2 or 3 on the Henneke score.  Gather operations for the Antelope Complex have rated most of the horses so far as 3, some 4s and some 5s.  But most of what I see here are rated fairly low.  So, underlying cause for the reason these horses are getting sick?  Decreased feed intake as forage became scarce this winter?  Maybe? 

Searching some more, I have found the Indian Lakes Report from February 13, 2010, which even stated that death of horses last year was caused by "re-feeding" syndrome. Based on the report, they started a plan that got the horses re-fed in a way that would prevent hyperlipemia by introducing grass hay first and then in a few weeks slowly adding something that would put weight on them: alfalfa.

Might this be the same thing that is happening now along with the pneumonia cases?  This is the report for this year.  There have been quite a few deaths due to respiratory infections and hyperlipemia.

Again, why do activists automatically start blaming gather operations for deaths?  What about the underlying causes that bring on these diseases?  Aren't these causes the reason the BLM rounds up the horses in the first place?  Poor body condition?  Little forage?  If activists want to do some good for these horses, they should take a step back and analyze the whole picture, and then rather than being critical, provide assistance to help these horses.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Horse v. Cow

There are a lot of controversies surrounding cattle grazing on public lands.  There seems to be even more controversy and upset when horses are brought into the debate.  This is compounded when the activists are involved who strive to protect the free-roaming horses’ right to exist without federal intervention.  Wild horse activists are angered by the high numbers of cattle in comparison to horses.  Appropriate management levels for herd management areas should be increased, while numbers of cattle on the range should be decreased.  These are some common arguments I hear when there is upset surrounding horse gathers.  I am writing this to provide some data that might give some insight as to why more cattle can graze in an area than horses.

Monday, February 7, 2011

$23 Million to protect sage-grouse habitat

Feds Announce $23M to protect sage grouse habitat

I was pretty excited to see this.  While environmentalists and wildlife people are fighting to list the sage grouse on the Endangered Species List, the federal government is doing what it can to prevent them from having to be listed.  They are providing twenty-three million dollars to buy up developmental rights on ranches and farms on nearly 50,000 acres in Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado.  By trying to prevent them from being listed, activities on public lands may be restricted.  I imagine this has a lot to do with recreation, grazing rotations, and, I also imagine, wild horses.  Like cattle are kept from being in leks during breeding season, somehow horse use should also be minimized.  I read this in the Oregon Sage-grouse strategy plan.  Besides stating that cows should not be turned on on areas with breeding sites until after breeding season, Oregon FWS also suggested that agencies must make sure that horse numbers are not over appropriate management levels if there are sage-grouse leks in the herd management area.

It is exciting to see conservation efforts made to preserve not only the sage-grouse, but also the habitat they depend on.  In a way, so do I and I don't ever want to see it disappear or be damaged by development, overgrazing, or too much mining.

                 As you might notice with this map, sage-grouse habitat closely resembles public lands.
                           The patch they are conserving will preserve a corridor from Colorado up to Alberta and Saskatchewan

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Windy Walk

Saige and I went for a windy walk today. The sun had come out this afternoon, but the wind whipping down off the Cascades was cold! Therefore, our walk was short lived. Saige did enjoy stomping around in her new Georgia Romeo's, size 5. I guess it's normal, but must she keep growing?  Because I must note here, she is not wearing a diaper, neither cloth nor disposable!

While following Saige (I decided today that it is much like walking a dog, only children don't mind as well), I observed the sky and attempted some cloud pictures.  It was very hard to avoid buildings.  I wanted to hop in my truck and get out of town to continue my photo shoot, but did the best I could.

Also, while we were out and about, I had to take a picture of the new truck/old truck:  You tell me, which one do you like better!?  Haha

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Erroneous report to defund BLM round-ups?

I will do anything to not do homework, apparently.

 Report to Congress....Request to Defund Roundups

I just scanned through this report to congress to defund the BLM round ups. I did not do an in-depth view of it, but did notice their numbers seemed a little off. How did they come up with a number that is over 10,000 fewer than what the BLM says? If they are relying on counts by Craig Downer, based on his methods, which I couldn't replicate with the amount of information he provided, he could easily have missed horses. 

Other studies to count horses have been done before. The author of Dances with Wolves, Michael Blake, was so sure the BLM was wrong. He and the Public Lands Resource Council, who had little experience with aerial counting of large mammals, decided to do their own count. But they had no idea what they were doing and grossly undercounted the horse population. In his methods, which are supposed to be detailed enough that someone else can replicate the same study, Downer did not mention what airplane he used, but he referred to it as a "two-seater."  Is this a helicopter or fixed wing aircraft?   Fixed wing aircraft lead to inaccurate counts.  He does refer to it as a plane....Downer also did not mention anything about his counting method other than the camera, video recording, and transects.  Double-counting is how the BLM makes sure they can get as accurate a number as they can.

Besides their wacky numbers, which seem as erroneous to me as they state the BLM's numbers are, their sources are not credible. Therefore, when I saw their reference list, I wanted to toss the whole report. They relied on blog posts, internet websites, BLM data off their websites, a few personal communication with the Cloud Foundation (a highly reputable source!) and a conservation zoo place. Oh, and one - I repeat ONE - peer reviewed journal article on genetics. These were the sorts of references they used to support their argument. I saw no interviews with BLM personal. Seems like talking to some of these people who run the program would be a good start to hear from their mouths what the numbers are. Rather, they slunk around on websites to pull their data.

Well, I won't get too much more critical, especially since I haven't been able to do an in-depth look at it. But based on a glance...

Has anyone else seen this and have any thoughts? Do I have it all wrong?

Summer Research

I am so excited about my summer plans!

I have been in contact this week with Bill Anderson via email. He is so good about answering my array of questions. In a rough estimation, I will be down on Riddle Mountain in June to get some surveys and collect data before cows are turned out. This will be my horse-only study. Likely, the BLM will assist me in setting up enclosures, so I can look at a spot without grazing also. Then in July, after the cows have been turned out, I can survey impacts of cow grazing in enclosures, horse and cow grazing together, and no grazing. August or September will be a repeat of July's study. I am hoping if I still have funding left, to go back in after the horses are gathered and the cows have been removed to do another survey set. But, that may not work since by then vegetation probably won't be growing as much. *stores for future question*

In any case, I am excited for this summer and a bit worried as I scavenge for funding.

Hoping on adoption

My dad called me this morning asking if I knew anyone with a stock trailer. He is hoping to pick up a second job and start saving to adopt a Kiger mustang this fall. His adopted his last Kiger, a magnificent 8 year old stud, at Lynden, Washington when the Adopt-a-horse program was making its rounds. This was in May of 2005. My dad loved that horse. I remember that he would sit for hours down in the shelter while Kody ate. Since my dad had never handled a wild horse before, gentling was a slow process. I think there were times when he got very frustrated because of it.

My parents hired a trainer to come out, but his methods were old and cruel. They consisted of roping Kody and trying to overcome him with force. Needless to say, that did not work, and I believe it set my dad back a few weeks. They finally hired another trainer, someone well-known, but I can't remember his name. All I remember was that my mom wished I'd been there, because he was cute! He did much better with Kody, and helped my dad get on track. By 2008 (and maybe earlier, since I wasn't living at home it's hard to keep track of Kody's timeline) my dad was able to pet him, brush him, somewhat lead him, and pick up his feet. This older wild horse, which had even kicked me at one time, was just the most lovable thing. He loved attention and had the kindest eye.

Unfortunately, my parents fell on hard times. Being a truck driver, it's hard for my dad to always have consistent work. Therefore, in 2009 dad gave Kody away to a Kiger breeder. I think she bred him a couple times, and according to dad, sold him to someone in Eastern Washington. I'm sure has made a great horse for whoever has him!

Now, dad is hoping to pick up another Kiger this fall to give it another try. He regrets giving Kody away. At least now he will know what to expect in gentling a wild horse. He is looking forward to the unbreakable bond that can be made. I am excited for him. I hope he can go through with it. I cannot adopt one myself at this time, but it would be great for me to be able to learn through my dad more about the process.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mare at Antelope Roundup

“The care, well-being, and humane treatment of America’s wild horses, both on and off the range, are the highest priority for the BLM. The BLM is aware of the video taken on Jan. 27, 2011, during the Antelope Complex gather of the mare that slipped and fell in the snow. The BLM is conducting an internal review of the incident, and will make the information available to the public once that review has been completed.” ~BLM Nevada
I am interested to see the review.  As I have watched the video twice, I did not notice that the pilot did anything wrong.  He was far back the entire time.  The horses were loping or trotting.  It was when they released the Judas horse that the band lumped together, made a sharp turn, and then the mare slipped on the snow.  The pilot did not torture her or buzz her or hound her to get up and get a move on.  She is breathing normal and appears to be calm. Then she finds her footing, gets up, and lopes down the hill.  It is at this time that the pilot attempted twice to turn her into the trap site where she loped some and trotted some, but she refused to be herded in.  He let her go.  I do not know what happened after that or if she was let free for the day to be rounded up later, but either way, the helicopter pilot released the pressure when he saw she was not going to go in where he wanted her.  That is my take on the occurrence.  Here is the video for you to make your own determination.  These of course are just my opinions.
AR's take any footage they can of horses falling and blow it out of proportion to look like animal cruelty.  In another clip a horse slipped and you can hear in the background people gasping at the audacity of it.  Their antics are unforgiving, thoughtless, and single-minded.  They are as cruel as they believe the BLM to be.  They jump at any attempt to make the them look bad when rounding up the horses.  
What gets me, is if the BLM did not round them up, they would later be charging the BLM again with footage of starving horses and dusty ranges.  Either that, or they would blame the cows like they do day in and day out.  What they refuse to realize is that cows are managed and controlled.  Even if every last cow was removed from the range and the horses were allowed all of it, within a decade there would be mass starvation die-offs and the range would be bare.  
I am using the Yakama Reservation as an example.  They have not had much cattle grazing on their ranges in many years.  The horses population has exploded to 12,000 and there are accounts of areas where it has been so overgrazed that forage is not growing back. That can be expected to happen if Animal Rights' activists get their way with wild horse management.
At least the BLM and those who really do advocate for the wild horses, and wildlife, get that and understand that.  Hopefully we can be the voice of reason that wins over this voice of hysteria.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Give Me A Horse!

Give me a horse!
One that has thunder in his hooves,
One that has lightening in his legs,
One with fire in his eyes --
Give me a horse!
So that I may ride until the ends of time
Upon a steed with the power of the world.


The following was written in a dissent to the case involving Rock Springs Grazing Association in Wyoming and the Secretary of Interior. Horses were straying onto these private lands from public lands. Though the grazing association had called the BLM and asked for the horses to be removed, it did not happen. The horses ate forage that otherwise cattle would have eaten. The association filed suit against the secretary alleging that a taking had occurred under the fifth amendment. The court found that the horses did not interfere with using their land for cattle grazing, nor did it impeded their right to investment value of the property. Court declared that the plaintiffs were not deprived of the right to exclude the horses by building a fence. The court admitted that horses did diminish value of the property, but that is not necessarily a taking. Court ordered that no taking had occurred and the Secretary was dismissed of the associations claim.

In a dissent, Seth and Barrett argued that the case should be remanded for factual determination to find if the taking occurred because of failure for the government to remove horses from private land. The horses are a part of government property and it is stated in the Act that the government is enacted to control them.

I found this quote interesting:

"These horses are thus placed in a newly created legal category not wild animals, not strays, not migratory, not related to treaty obligations but as part of the public lands as the Supreme Court noted.......Thus they cannot be described as 'wild animals,' as the Act avoids doing this, but instead are a part of the public lands -- a 'component' thereof, a part thereof and that alone."

Using such language as found in the Act, that horses are "components of the public lands," Seth and Barrett claimed that the Government used the association's private property for a public purpose. Thus, this judge felt that the plaintiffs were entitled to compensation when that control was not initiated to prevent grazing of private lands when the horses were asked to be removed.

I found this case to be interesting and educating. I had not thought about the Wild Horse Act in comparison with the bald eagle acts or endangered species act. But two of these takings cases referred to their similarities. These acts federally protect species and there is no taking allowed, despite what injury is caused (grazing, livestock loss, crop loss).

The first time the grazing association brought this file to suit in 1984 against the prior Secretary, it was remanded for factual determination and not heard again until 1986. In that first case, a different judge dissented agreeing with the Court based partly on the fact that if the association were allowed compensation, then everyone who ever had a similar situation with other wildlife would be filing suit under the fifth amendment as well.

I don't know what became of this 1986 case. Judges Seth and Barrett's dissent made sense where the Court's decision did not. How frustrating it must be to have wild horses on your property and be unable to move them! And then they are eating your forage and possibly overgrazing your lands, but you can do nothing because of the Wild Horse Act. You must wait on the Government.

I can see why the judge dissented...(Several judges actually dissented on this case, Halloway agreed with Seth and Barrett's dissent.)