BLM budget process

24 02 2011

There has been a lot of talk lately about the upcoming BLM budget process, initiated (I think?) by Rep. Dan Burton’s address in the U.S. House a few weeks ago.

I got this alert this morning (as I’m sure many did) from the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign:

It’s a complicated issue, and it’s going to be more complicated when I tell you what it means to Spring Creek Basin. If BLM doesn’t get funding, our roundup this fall won’t happen. Now I don’t quite understand the government budget/funding cycle, and when our roundup was scheduled last year – last budget cycle? – I don’t understand why it’s not funded in this current budget cycle. But our district ranger, acting as herd area manager until one replaces our retired manager, just told me that if Congress does not pass a budget for 2011 and passes only a continuing resolution for the remainder of the year, we would not have the funding for a roundup.

So here it is: Denial of this budget will have a local impact: It will cancel our roundup. Devastating? Maybe not (?). A huge setback? Absolutely.

Why am I so excited about LBC’s roundup this year being canceled and so adamant that ours go on as planned? Because LBC’s was canceled BECAUSE PZP has limited the population growth there. Ours is growing – still growing – and we don’t have a PZP program in place to begin to approach LBC’s success! We’ll end up with about 90-95 horses this year … which would mean ~128 horses next year (based on my knowledge of the horses).

To start, forget the genetic “number.” Whatever it is, it’s moot. Spring Creek Basin is a fenced >22,000 acres. (Most? All? HMAs are fenced or cut off by natural boundaries? We have both.) It’s a finite area with extremely limited resources. The population of 110-120 horses at the 2007 roundup was lean. Some horses/bands were driven outside the boundaries of the herd area to find water and forage – over/through fences. How desperate is that? What would be the condition of 128 horses??? I DON’T WANT TO KNOW – because I can guess. Emotionally, I HATE the mere thought of the roundup this fall. Realistically, I would rather the horses be in good to great condition to withstand the helicopter than in poor to starving condition …

Spring Creek Basin is a drop in the Wild Horse & Burro Program. But consider this: In the proposal I wrote last year asking BLM to implement an annual PZP darting program in Spring Creek Basin, I calculated that horses from Spring Creek Basin NOT sent to long-term holding would save the government (taxpayers) at least $2.25 million over their lifetimes in holding (at $20,000 per horse’s lifetime, according to Tom Gorey; it’s $2,500 per horse per year according to Rep. Burton’s address). We can achieve that with PZP to limit Spring Creek Basin’s herd population growth, to limit roundups to one per decade rather than three per decade.

Yes, we’re a drop in the program – and that’s lifetime, not per year. But what if this was the tale in  multiple herd management areas and wild horse ranges … Little Book Cliffs, Pryor Mountain, McCullough Peaks, Spring Creek Basin and more? How many $millions ($billions over the long term?) would BLM – the government – taxpayers save? How many horses would we save? How many not-born mustangs would NOT go to long-term holding … how many mustangs would live wild on their home ranges?

So how do I/we comment on the budget process? What comment makes the most (realistic) impact? What comment funds our necessary roundup (see the numbers and reasoning above) and implements an annual fertility program in Spring Creek Basin – to start us on the road to the success seen by Little Book Cliffs?

Stopping traumatic roundups is a good goal, but SOMETHING has to be in place to then limit reproduction … leading to what BLM deems “excess.” Wait … what BLM deems? The monsters, right? Re-read what I wrote above: Spring Creek Basin is FENCED. Its resources are LIMITED. In addition to mustangs, it supports – in limited, seasonal quantities – mule deer, elk, pronghorn antelope and cattle (yes, a limited number of cattle, for three months of the year when water – as snow – is (usually) plentiful), as well as coyotes, black bears, mountain lions (rare, I have seen a track), ravens, eagles (golden and bald), owls, kestrels, bluebirds – others – badgers (caught by my wildlife cam!) … What does that have to do with BLM? Monstrosity? No. That’s simply the law of reality … of nature (as fenced by man, which simply ain’t gonna change).

“Let nature take its course …” Who has seen nature in her course? Fortunately (!!), Bones and her half-born foal are the only end-of-nature bodies I’ve seen (equine, that is). Since I’ve been documenting the horses, I don’t know the causes of the foal mortalities (other than Bones’ foal), and the mares other than Bones and one mare that likely died of a catastrophic injury have been elderly girls. Fortunately, I haven’t witnessed Spring Creek Basin horses at the brink of (or past) starvation – but I’ve heard firsthand accounts from people who have. I can’t stand by and watch nature take its course on a fenced range with otherwise healthy horses, and BLM is legally obligated to disallow starvation. Is (lack of) funding going to stop that process?

LBC’s roundup was canceled because growth stopped. Spring Creek Basin’s population is still growing.

On how many other ranges is this the story? I don’t know, I know it only here.

Now what?

I want the bulk of BLM’s Wild Horse & Burro Program budget to go to managing mustangs in the wild. That’s a better goal than “stop the roundups.” In our case, PZP will cost a few hundred dollars a year because of our small population and small number of mares. How much better would it be if the bulk of the budget BLM gets for managing wild horses went to fertility control and a smaller amount – because of fewer necessary? – went to roundups and removals? Will we eliminate mustangs in long-term holding? I don’t know … but as at least a short-term goal, wouldn’t it be better to have more horses wild than in any kind of holding at all – as opposed to the other way around?

To save the majority – here – some horses must be removed. That’s the end result of current management. If we can then start better management, hoorah!

I wish there was a neat way to wrap up this package, this issue, this post. I’ve been trying to get there the last several paragraphs. But it reflects the realities of wild horse management. There’s not a neat way to wrap it up. PZP isn’t perfect. Is it better than the roundup/remove option? Obviously, that’s my stand.

(Not) the end.



5 responses

24 02 2011
Linda Horn

Denying the $12 million, or requiring that or other money be used exclusively for the fertility program is only going to harm hundreds, if not thousands, of wild horses in the long run. It will be a terrible thing if the Spring Creek horses and others have to wait for an “emergency” gather. Some will likely die on the range, and the stress from a helicopter gather and transport will probably take more. What will the stubborn advocates say then? How will this look to the general public and Congress?

In most everything I’ve submitted to the BLM, I’ve said they’ve been perpetuating their own crisis by allowing the herds to build up unmanaged over 4-5 years … until it’s “raining wild horses”. PZP can change that if given a chance, but, initially, horses have to be removed so there’ll be a starting point for achieving balance. And the best hope for keeping more horses on the range and birthing more foals is a robust and successful adoption program.

Since the 2011 Gather Schedule has been published, I imagine at least some of the contracts are already signed. If I was a contractor and thought this $12 million for the gathers might be denied, I’d already be calling a lawyer. If breech of contract suits were successful, money that could be used to help the horses would go down the drain. I’ve comment on this a number of times, but nobody’s listened.

For so many, this has become a cult of personality and a “blood sport” vendetta. That would be okay with me if THEIR blood was on the line, but it isn’t.

25 02 2011
sandra longley

I see some misinformation here, gathers for PZP will go on as scheduled, geeze where does this stuff come from..BLM..LTH costs are 500 a head and STH costs are 2500 a head, since there is no market basically for adoption(3500) a year-only the young most adoptable will be in STH for 3 years or 3 strikes..your herd can and will be rounded up and PZP’d even with the budget cuts..while I can appreciate your attachment to your herd..there are thousands of other wild horses who do not need to be rounded up-do not need PZP..there is not a problem of over populatiion..the west supported millions of wild horses before they-stuck them on HMAs and then fenced the onto even smaller islands and over ran the HMA with this just my opinion? NO this is the federal courts opinion as time and time again WWP has gone into court this past year and had cattle removed off of allotments..this is a range management issue not an over population issue..if you only have 22,000 acres of poor quality feed, I can’t imagine how the horses are still alive since 1971????any answer to that? There are 111 HMAs that have been zeroed out..move the herd to one of those, or make arangements with the BLM for locals to provide feed and improve water sources, adopt the herd and move them-the BLM will be much more inclined to negotiate these things without an unlimited supply of yen..real solutions..Wild horses are wildlife, they are not your pasture ornaments, they do in fact die from many things besides predators as do elk deer foal rates are alot lower than conception rates even in domestic horses..if you want them to be treated like domestic horses then adopt the herd..if not let them be wild and just suck it up..don’t love them into extinction

25 02 2011
Linda Horn

Sandra, TJ is too much of a lady and a diplomat to say this, so I will. You have the right to your opinion and much of what you said is true. It’s the way you said it that really ticks me off. You don’t have to be sarcastic and hurtful to get your point across.

25 02 2011
sandra longley

As far as gather contracts..there is no legal issue with canceling them, 2 were already canceled this year..because they discovered..whoops..not enough horses to gather..that pesky computer generated census.

25 02 2011

Linda – I agree about BLM perpetuating this crisis. And although they seem to ask for “help” every now and then, nothing changes.

Sandra – I have to concede there’s probably no way to verify the numbers I used because they came from government sources, as I guess yours did.

As far as I know, a contract has been signed … I guess I assumed we were funded in this year’s budget cycle. Maybe I’m concerned about nothing at all. But what I was told locally bothers me. And it should make people stop and think about the little picture within the big.

As to the only question you asked, the “answer to” how horses are still alive on “22,000 acres of poor quality feed” since 1971 (and I don’t know exactly, but I don’t think Spring Creek Basin HMA was designated until later) is simple: roundups ( = limited population). Maybe I’m crazy, but I’d like to limit the population by limiting reproduction, not waiting till the cycle has played out and “excess” horses have to be removed. Roundups will still happen, I believe, but less frequently, and if the only excuse BLM has to not use bait trapping is that “it costs more,” saving roundup/holding $ ought to tip the scales. (If I’m being optimistic here instead of realistic, forgive my youthful exuberance. It still seems a better plan than what’s in place.)

And yes, the West supported apparently 2 million horses … before pioneers and fences and paved highways and shopping malls and subdivisions. Should more horses be allowed on the areas set aside for them? Probably. But you can’t ignore “settlement” and “multiple use mandates.” This is one tiny look – a drop in the Wild Horse & Burro Program, as I said. But don’t we matter to the whole?

I’m not sure which two canceled roundups you’re referring to … if Little Book Cliffs, that census doesn’t come from a computer. It comes from people in the canyons, on the hills, on the range at Little Book Cliffs. And there aren’t enough horses to gather there because PZP has been used successfully for at least eight years now.

I so hate the politics of this … and it’s probably the main reason we don’t have a workable management plan in place. No one can agree on anything. Maybe the politics of this, in fact (?), means that nothing will ever change. We fight BLM, we fight each other …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: