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My response to “Wild Horses, BLM and Logical Solutions” FB page

December 4, 2015

Vickery Eckhoff

BLM Wild horses and burros programI got kicked off the Wild Horses, BLM and Logical Solutions FB page after posting James McWilliams’ article on Mustang-Safe beef labeling and sticking around to debate it with the group members there. Don’t lament this, folks. It’s their page. They make the rules. And one of the apparent guiding principles is to center every discussion (and solution) around bringing WHB populations down to appropriate management levels (AML). That is their idea of “logical solutions.” But it isn’t mine.

So I went on over to the BLM’s WHB Program FB page and posted this:

***

“Let’s be real.

AML is all about preserving higher stocking numbers of cattle than wild horses, not about providing ecological balance under multiple uses. Livestock producers keep arguing that getting down to AML and adopting out a few WHB are necessary to reduce overgrazing, preserve public grass and forest land. But they don’t provide proof that it’s horses doing the damage.

There happens to be extensive proof on the other side: data showing the degree to which private livestock outnumber WHB. How long are those looking to remove more wild horses going to pretend this isn’t relevant, and keep trying to silence those who bring it up?

Yes, there are fewer livestock on public lands today compared to years past. This is obviously hard on ranchers. Yes, wild horses need to be managed on the range. But the constant drumbeat of “over AML” “adopt out WHB” “use PZP” and “join the WHB advisory board” won’t remove the giant gorilla in the room: the damage is on the livestock side.

Go look for research to the contrary (you can find a sample here on page 14). What little exists says that, because there’s no historical data on grazing by livestock in HMAs, that pinning damage on wild horses is impossible. Go seek out studies on the negative impact of livestock production, both in the US and globally. A search of Google Scholar turns up thousands of results. Read a sample of these studies (available here on page 13). They minimally mention other species (like wild horses) on the condition of public lands. There’s a reason for that.

The COP21 climate talks now going on in Paris will continue to escalate the discussion, and livestock production, as the public is becoming increasingly aware, has a carbon footprint to rival transportation’s, and a massive water footprint, to boot.

If you want to solve the environmental problems that keep getting threaded into the “over AML” argument, you are going to have to confront this preponderance of evidence.

The public is getting informed, albeit slowly.

Why not address the issue within the livestock sector honestly instead of kicking the can down the road? And part of that discussion needs to be the cost of public grazing allotments, which cost taxpayers much more than the WHB program. Frankly, both are burdens on taxpayers, but the federal grazing program is the biggest of all. There needs to be honest discussion on that. Who wants to participate?”

***

I’m very interested to see who steps forward.

A note to newcomers: I am a writer and journalist published on Forbes.com, Newsweek/The Daily Beast, Alternet, Salon, Laika and the site I run with James McWilliams, The Daily Pitchfork. I used to work for The New York Times, Forbes Inc., Dow Jones and spent some time at The New Yorker and Time Warner. So please do not call me a horse advocate. My only advocacy is to the public and its right to be correctly informed on important policy issues by the media. To this end, I seek out research on the federal grazing program, land use and climate change, as well as data missing from most MSM coverage because it is time-consuming to find and analyze. 

As usual, I welcome your comments. Please be careful with personal attacks, don’t publish long dissertations, and keep the focus on the issues or your comment won’t appear. I always appreciate people who provide specific examples and links when disputing a fact. Thank you for dropping by.

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36 Comments

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  1. Sue carter #
    December 4, 2015

    When will BLM begin to remove livestock instead of horses?

    §4710.5 Closure to livestock grazing.
    (a) If necessary to provide habitat for wild horses or burros, to implement herd management actions, or to protect wild horses or burros, to implement herd management actions, or to protect wild horses or burros from disease, harassment or injury, the authorized officer may close appropriate areas of the public lands to grazing use by all or a particular kind of livestock.

    (b) All public lands inhabited by wild horses or burros shall be closed to grazing under permit or lease by domestic horses and burros.

    (c) Closure may be temporary or permanent. After appropriate public consultation, a Notice of Closure shall be issued to affected and interested partIt’s.

  2. Elisabeth McCarthy #
    December 4, 2015

    I just want to say thank you for consistently being a voice for the wild ones no matter what. I was and may still be receiving face book posts from the WHB group and while I read them I never posted because it was obvious to me that it is all propaganda and very likely paid for by the BLM. One name in particular I have seen on every BLM state page I have ever visited. If you ever speak directly to a BLM employee, and I have spoken to many during various round-ups, you know they are highly trained professional spokespersons. It is not like having a conversation with a real person who wants real solutions. Very frustrating but as their mantra is “we only do what Congress tells us and when Congress tells us we can’t let cattle graze on public lands…” I keep contacting my legislators. Thankfully all CT reps and senators have co-sponsored SAFE Act this year! A first.

    • daphne #
      December 6, 2015

      NO ONE is paid by the blm on that page, its run by ppl who LIVE near the HMAS and deal with the horses DAILY.

      • John R #
        December 7, 2015

        Actually, I believe there are some BLM employees on the page, but that they are there by personal choice and not as part of their BLM employment. They bring a perspective to the table that is valuable.

  3. maziel #
    December 4, 2015

    Initially, two nights ago, I was horrified to find that the Yellowstone bison herd managed by the park, is going to be culled in the same manner our wild horses and burros are – same methods. Helicopter roundups with hazers, penning, and either being shot on site or sent to slaughter. Watch the documentary Silencing the Thunder. There is a group advocating for them in Montana. There are ways. I am sure you have been to Wyoming and Montana and other states in order to report and photograph our WHB. You know how vast the land we are talking about.
    I have owned horses and burros half of my life. They do not graze on the same things. They aerate the soil, fertilize it and scatter the seeds of native plants. They go lightly on the land. That they destroy watering holes is a fallacy. You cannot get a burro to cross a stream willingly or to get their feet wet in a puddle. You would need a block and tackle for just one.

    BTW, to get back to the YNP bison – they will be culling 1000 cows and calves because of brucellosis, a threat to cattle; however, the advocates and the rancher in the documentary both state the bison are not the carriers. Brucellosis is carried by elk.

    Where is the common sense. We are becoming a nation of mindless, insensitive, dull-witted people who are gullible enough to believe anything the government forces down our throats.

    • Michelle Snook #
      December 9, 2015

      LAND HELD HOSTAGE
      A History of Livestock and Politics

      Thomas L. Fleischner, Ph.D.

      Since the early sixteenth century, the West has been used for livestock grazing. Yet winter die-offs, drought, and overgrazing have long plagued western ranching. On public lands, federal regulation of livestock grazing was slow to develop. The political influence of stock growers has enabled them to largely resist policy shifts that would allow ecological recovery. Today, increasing scientific knowledge and general appreciation of arid lands may finally effect real grazing reform.
      Thomas L. Fleischner, Ph.D., is professor of environmental studies at Prescott College in Arizona, and the author of numerous articles on

  4. Clyde Benedix #
    December 4, 2015

    Vickery, I have followed you since your Forbes days, and want to thank you for all of the work you do on a daily basis defending our wild horse population. As you said about a gorilla in the room, I do not understand (okay I do) how OUR federal government constantly bows to the wishes of the ranchers. Perhaps we should push for NO public grazing on federal lands, leaving the wild horse population to what is left of OUR heritage. Thank you again for all that you are doing. Peace be with you.

    • December 4, 2015

      Thanks very much, Clyde. The entire discussion on what is happening on public lands is getting louder. Media seems to be picking up on it, given the climate talks and emphasis on livestock production and carbon/water footprint. That’s good news, even if it’s slow in coming.

      • December 5, 2015

        I just wish to add my thanks to you, Ginger and everyone speaking up so eloquently and factually for our horses. I just posted a comment on The Whole Foods FB page, after seeing a post they had with a link to a site from Country Natural Beef dtd 11/12/15 entitled “Separating Facts From Fiction”. so full of lies- it made me nearly homicidal. And some of the comments from people were just sickening.

  5. December 4, 2015

    Thanks as ever Vickery for your clear, well-documented analysis. I represent the Cloud Foundation and we are wild horse advocates but I believe we are advocates for the land and all wild creatures that inhabit
    those lands. For 21 years I have been documenting the wild horses and other wildlife that live on public lands. They are all marginalized by privately-owned cattle on OUR public lands. Your concise writings on
    this topic should give all elected officials the facts needed to make a change. By the way, the Buffalo Field Campaign is the non-profit organization putting themselves on the line for the Yellowstone Bison. No wild animal should be harassed by a helicopter. Not America’s bison or its wild horses!

  6. Barbara Grimaldi #
    December 4, 2015

    Hi Vickery. Of course you are right. I am so disgusted with this situation, as we all are, that I cannot respond to advocacy groups who send me appeals for funds because they want to be out on the range watching the BLM do their roundups because “they don’t like us being out there”. As far as I see, these groups and all other groups have failed miserably for the past 44 years to stop the massacres and the roundups. As a result, what do we have left after millions have been erased from our lands—about 5%? And the public doesn’t give a damn because there are so many other hot topics in the news daily that garner its attention, like terrorism and elections. We failed—no matter how hard and long we have worked—we failed, and these animals will be completely lost to us forever. And again, the public doesn’t give a damn. Thank you for your common sense and journalistic acumen. You always tell it like it really is, and I appreciate that very much.

    Barbara Grimaldi

    (we met at Equine Advocates earlier this year)

  7. December 5, 2015

    This is an incredibly well researched Analysis of what the BLM and all Departments and ‘Services’ of the Department of the Interior are systematically doing at the bidding of the Privately owned Cattle, Sheep and Goat Ranchers.

    As an All Animal Advocate and a US Taxpayer I deeply resent granting the DOI funding to ‘Gather’ the Wild Horses and Burros, and the Aerial Slaughter of the Wolves. The US Taxpayer is getting shafted by the FACT – let us not mince words here – it is a Fact that the DOI is on a Mission to ‘Manage’ all the Wild Horses and Burros, as well as the various types of Wolves, to EXTINCTION.

    There seems no way to stop this, however, there is. ‘We the People’ can sue as a Class as we are being ‘Materially’ and ‘Emotionally’ harmed by the DOI. Anybody can bring a Lawsuit against any Department of the US Government and with the US Taxpayers as the ‘Class’ that is a huge Class and there is zero way any Court in the Land could refuse this Class the Standing to Sue. Especially if the Lawsuit is brought from the EAST and not the West!

    I have a Strategy and an Attorney who has argued before the US Supreme Court twice and prevailed both times. We go to the Circuit Court first (District Court can be skipped due to the fact that my Attorney friend is a Member of the SCOTUS Bar. I just need the funds to get this together but I am Horse rich but incredibly cash poor.

    I want this to end!

  8. Margaret #
    December 5, 2015

    Vickery you may not be a wild horse advocate but you have done more for people’s understanding than just anyone! You take data in and somehow you make it make sense. Then you explain it to the rest of us in easy to understand terms! Thank you!

  9. Ann Marini #
    December 5, 2015

    The BLM and specifically the Wild Horse and Burro program do not wish to hear the truth. They want to continue to spin, spin and spin some more in order to brainwash everyday Americans that there is an overpopulation of wild horses requiring the use of PZP and in the extreme case, sterilization. Folks, there is no overpopulation of wild horses. This is a ruse that the BLM created in order to carry out their goal to exterminate all wild horses and burros. By creating the ruse that there is an overpopulation of wild horses, they justify the cruel and unnecessary roundups. The BLM is a rogue agency that is on a mission to destroy our wild horses and burros. They consistently reduce wild horse numbers below genetic viability because they want to extinguish the wild horses. The BLM must be stopped by firing all employees and overhauling the program by putting in employees that want to follow the law, the 1971 Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act.

  10. Lorie Schoen #
    December 5, 2015

    Thanks for all you do to help preserve these wonderful horse’s that should be allowed to roam and graze freely. This is part of our American heritage, it’s sad that these innocent creatures of God are put through this running scared for hours driving bands apart the stress and injury is totally unacceptable. I’m glad you can be there voice, we need more media for sure and the facts out there. Most people need to know what really is going on. Honestly i don’t think the majority of the public knows. Thanks

  11. December 5, 2015

    I have been a Mustang rescue volunteer here in Southern Maine for 11yrs. We need more information and sources for information to bring to the public. Please continue your work.

  12. Katie Granzow #
    December 6, 2015

    Vickery, I am the admin from the Wild Horses, BLM & Logical Solutions group that removed you. I speak on behalf of myself personally. The reason for your removal was not your posted article but because you descended into personal insulting of another member. That is against the rules. You were warned & asked to please read & agree to the pinned post containing the rules. You wrote in your comment that you will not agree to the rules. That is why you were removed.
    I also removed your posted article because, as you stressed over & over again in the thread following that it was a meat labeling issue. Meat labeling is a US FDA issue & your article posed a solution for the US FDA to consider not the BLM. The proposed solution was so far outside the scope of the group & the thread that followed was littered with argument & insult that it warranted removal.
    This article completely misrepresents why you were removed and the scope of the group it self.

    • December 6, 2015

      Thank you, Katie. Your’s is the last comment I’m going to allow on the topic of your group’s rules. I think I’ve made my message clear. Personal conduct cuts both ways, and your group can hardly claim moral high ground on how it speaks to those with whom it disagrees.

      Is anyone from your group willing to have an offline conversation with me on the topics outlined in my post? As it states, “who wants to participate”? I am specifically interested in speaking to someone with cattle/sheep within HMAs.

  13. bucksrider #
    December 6, 2015

    Too bad your comments are not true. I am on that group. You were removed for personal attacks on others as well as not following the group rules. You were requested several times to read and agree with the group rules, to which you refused.

    • December 6, 2015

      It’s true, bucksrider. I did not agree to the rules. As for personal attacks, several comments of your group’s members provide a very different picture than the one you’re suggesting. In the interest of having a more productive discussion, I am holding comments that want to rehash that. Welcome to the discussion.

  14. Sandee Force #
    December 6, 2015

    I happen to be the senior administrator on the Wild Horses, BLM and Logical Solutions group and would like to answer some of the accusations that Vickery Eclhoff has made.

    First part is that she was not removed from the group for her posts but for refusing to agree to the rules of engagement of the group and for personally attacking other members of the group. That is a booting offense since as adults we should all be able to discuss matters without calling names and making snide or rude personal remarks.
    As far as the article that she posted, I personally disagree with some of it, some has merit and much is either over simplification or as biased as most articles dealing with wild horses are. Notice that I did NOT say pro wild horse, I said most wild horse articles. Doesn’t matter if they are pro, anti or what, they state one side and do their darnedest to ignore anything that does not agree with their stance. We can all sign petitions, March and make little difference to how things are done. Or we can get involved, learn the realities both good and bad of how the 1971 Act reads and how that does effect the way the HMAs are managed. We can actively work with the system to improve communications, understanding and hopefully improve how herds are managed and decrease the number of gathers needed to hold the herds to the designated levels. If people feel that the designated levels of a particular HMA are too low then I encourage you all to do the reseach on what the HMA can responsibly handle without going outside of the constraints of the 1971 Free Roaminv Horse and Burro Act. Understand though that as hard as if sometimes is to work within the system, it is far more effective than bucking it and making every action a fight. Velma Johnson AKA Wild Horse Annie knew that well and that is the very reason that we have a Wild Horse and Burro Act, she worked within the system.

    • Pamela Williams #
      December 6, 2015

      Sandee, I happen NOT to be a member of the BLM “solutions group,” nor am I acquainted with the author of this article. I will say that I am very hostile to BLM actions regarding wild horses and burros and am fed up with your boot-licking of cattle and sheep ranchers. I’m fed up with horses and burros being scapegoats for BLM’s twisted policies that serve your ag-industrial complex masters, the typical ambivalent and disinterested BLM staff, and your hollow admonitions to be polite and be part of the system. The system is rotten and stacked, and until that changes I will forever be an opponent. But since you advocate communication and are the senior administrator of the “solutions” group, please communicate about the wild horses sold in Colorado for slaughter and the BLM employee(s) who were rewarded with promotion for her/their outstanding accomplishments. And while you’re at it, why don’t you address the issues of integrity, transparency, and personal accountability?

    • Lisa White #
      December 6, 2015

      I find it interesting that in your entire post, you did not mention even once the fact and the impact of privately owned animals grazing on public lands. As a farmer (cow/ calf operation) and as a veterinarian I know first hand how cattle grazing affects pastureland. This whole charade of conservation management of the horse lands is disheartenimg. Several members of my family work in conservation biology, some for state governments. They work tirelessly in their respective fields to protect the flora and fauna of our country. It saddens me that under the guise of conservation, the BLM and DOI are destroying the very thing they are supposed to protect. Such a lack of integrity.

    • December 6, 2015

      Sandee, I invite you to address the condition of all the rangeland where ranchers hold public grazing allotments; not just the small percentage where WHB and ranchers over lap (and WH are outnumbered), but the other millions of acres, where there are no wild horses whatsoever.

      2014 grazing receipts posted by both BLM and USFS put the numbers of private livestock at a minimum 37 times as many WHB; 30 times on BLM land and 83 times as many on USFS.

      You can see those numbers here, on pp. 6-11: http://dailypitchfork.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/BLM_USFS-grazing-analysis_2014_Daily-Pitchfork.pdf
      All sources are footnoted and linked, with screenshots for easy fact checking.

      • December 6, 2015

        The horses are only allowed on the land where they existed when the “act” was put into place. I am not sure I am following your argument of see how other BLM allotments where horses are not allowed in some way effect herds the presently exist? Do you disagree with the law or see it’s need for change?

      • December 6, 2015

        Hi Tom,

        88% of BLM/USFS grazing land has no WHB on it, much of it suffering due to the long drought and exacerbated by overgrazing. The other 12% (also suffering from overgrazing and the effects of the drought) has public grazing allotments and HMAs overlapping.

        The common denominator across all 251 million acres is drought, overgrazing and cattle.

        How does increasing the already high ratios of cattle to WHB (see pp. 6-11 of the following BLM/USFS grazing data analysis at http://dailypitchfork.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/BLM_USFS-grazing-analysis_2014_Daily-Pitchfork.pdf) help reduce overgrazing, both in the 12% and 88% areas?

        2014 grazing receipts already put the overall, annualized numbers of livestock vs. WHB at 30:1 (on BLM managed land); 83:1 (on USFS managed grazing land) and 37:1 on combined land.

        The goal of getting down to AML is to achieve a thriving ecological balance — a mandate of the 1971 Act. To address overgrazing is an important part of that. But it can’t be blamed on WHB that data shows are already outnumbered significantly.

        I would like to see someone address that data in light of the “getting down to AML” goal for WHB.

  15. December 7, 2015

    BLM is beef. If you want to help the mustangs, take this positive step, boycott beef. It does not cost money to straighten out the inequity of our our public lands, it simply a matter of choosing wisely what you eat. A nation wide beef boycott would pressure the cattle industry to make room for the wild life again, space for our freedoms again. Try it and see! This land is our land, not the cattle industries.
    Thanks,
    =

  16. December 8, 2015

    It has been my experience that Facebook is not good for anything. The Admins that the site itself has allow such pages as ‘I Hate Dogs’, ‘I Hate Horses’, and any other animal you can think of. They allow people outside of the United States to post Photos of animals being abused. They do absolutely nothing with these people and allow it to go on.

    I cannot stand the site nor its Founder. Zuckerberg is a real creep as he allows these things due to ‘Free Speech’. Has nobody ever explained to him that there is such a thing as ‘Hate Speech’ which is NOT protected Speech? Since his Company is in the United States, International members must follow United States Law.

    Facebook is a joke.

    • Michelle Snook #
      December 11, 2015

      Remember that Facebook is also how we are getting our message out. I hear your frustration with some of the allowed content on FB. I choose to focus on the tremendous tool it is to reach a large audience in such a short time.

      • December 11, 2015

        Twitter is more effective. 140 Characters do not allow fighting. The folks on Twitter are from Countries that Slaughter Dogs and Cats for Dinner. The younger folks in South Korea and China want this to be stopped. Twitter is superior in my opinion as the folks there do what they say they will. Can we say the same about Facebook? This entire thread is partly about the Fighting on Facebook. That is why I refuse to have a Facebook page.

        I took mine down BUT Zuckerberg KEEPS your photos and posts on an enormous Server Farm because he wants the DATA about YOU! That is a huge invasion of Privacy and unless you bother to read his ‘Terms of Service’ you are giving up more than you know.

  17. Michelle Snook #
    December 9, 2015

    In response to Maziel’s post….this might be of interest

    Jackrabbits are a bigger problem for cattle than bison in Utah’s Henry Mountains, USU study says

    By brett prettyman The Salt Lake Tribune
    First Published Jan 26 2015 12:09PM • Last Updated Jul 07 2015 05:17 pm

    Again, the article is too large to print here. Google it and you can read about it.

  18. Michelle Snook #
    December 9, 2015

    The Taylor Grazing Act was put in place because the land was being overgrazed and ranchers were calling on the Federal Government to do something about it. Only a relatively small group of ranchers were given the opportunity to graze their cattle on public land and the rest of their fellow ranchers were forced to buy land of their own or get out of the ranching business.

    What doesn’t make sense to me is that the 97% of private ranchers who must purchase their own land and pay their own way aren’t showing that they are upset that the government is supporting a minority with subsidies who are competitors on the meat market.

    Also, did you know that subsidized AUM’s can be used as collateral for loans. Another advantage that 97% of other ranchers don’t get to take advantage of. Why aren’t they upset about the privileged few who are allowed to grazed for 90% less than they do? And, those figures stayed the same for 35 years until a recent minor increase.

  19. Michelle Snook #
    December 11, 2015

    This is a presentation that was recently held at Dixie State University in St. George UT. It takes about an hour to watch once you open the link on your computer. His main point as I understood it is that “There are too many mouths on the range.” I think it is good and wise to listen to both sides and determine for yourself where the truth “lies.”

    Title: Forum 12-1-15 Eric Thacker Wild Horses
    Date: Tuesday, December 01, 2015
    Time: 12:00 PM MST
    Duration: 1:14:09
    Link: https://vstream.dixie.edu/DSC/Play/2439d33c6ca04f999dd1a4dcfefb45f41d

  20. Michelle Snook #
    December 11, 2015

    I found this very informative when trying to understand grazing livestock and how our legislation came to be at its present time. You may find it interesting too. It is too long to post so you will need to search the internet for it. The details below will help you find it. Well worth the read.

    LAND HELD HOSTAGE
    A History of Livestock and Politics

    Thomas L. Fleischner, Ph.D.

    Since the early sixteenth century, the West has been used for livestock grazing. Yet winter die-offs, drought, and overgrazing have long plagued western ranching. On public lands, federal regulation of livestock grazing was slow to develop. The political influence of stock growers has enabled them to largely resist policy shifts that would allow ecological recovery. Today, increasing scientific knowledge and general appreciation of arid lands may finally effect real grazing reform.
    Thomas L. Fleischner, Ph.D., is professor of environmental studies at Prescott College in Arizona, and the author of numerous articles on conservation biology, natural history, and environmental policy. He chaired the Public Lands Grazing Committee of the Society for Conservation Biology and currently serves on the board of governors of that organization.

  21. grandmagregg #
    May 18, 2016

    Talk about BLM chasing its own tail – and their supposed “scientific research” – here is a good example of their fraudulent activities.

    You may remember that a few years ago the BLM Director’s Challenge awarded $300,000 to assist field offices in on-the-ground volunteer field research about our wild horses and burros and our public lands. When contacted, the Eagle Lake (Twin Peaks HMA) field office representative stated that the volunteers would be assigning ALL use and/or abuse found on the public lands range to the wild horses and burros. When asked how the usage would be differentiated between the domestic livestock (about 82% per BLM AUM data) and the wild horse and burro usage (about 18%) the BLM representative said again and again that ALL usage discovered and documented would be shown as wild horse and burro usage – regardless of the fact livestock was permitted about 5 times more than the permitted wild horses and burro usage. No kidding!

    BTW, per information I acquired, the Eagle Lake/Surprise BLM field offices never approved a single volunteer for this project although they did KEEP $ 9,000 of the $ 25,000 that was supposed to go to this so-called “research”.
    http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/newsroom/2012/march/nr_03_22_2012.html

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