Editorial: Suit to block feral horse plan is frivolous

‘Wild’ horses being held in pens. (BLM pix)

As sure as hogs wallow in slop, one month after the Bureau of Land Management announced a plan to properly control the population of feral horses on a nearly 4 million-acre tract of land 50 miles southeast of Elko, a New York nonprofit group calling itself Friends of Animals filed a federal lawsuit. (Friends of Animals suit)

The lawsuit claims the BLM gave “no opportunity for the public to review or comment on its decision” and thus violated its own procedures and requirements of federal law. Actually, the suit merely tries to throw overheated rhetoric at a decision with which the Friends of Animals disagree.

In December the BLM outlined a 10-year plan to control the population of mustangs in the Antelope, Antelope Valley, Goshute, Maverick-Medicine, Spruce-Pequop and Triple B Herd Management Areas, plus another million acres onto which the horses have spread. The area currently has 9,500 horses, 11 times more than the low estimate for what the forage and water can support, about 900 horses.

The plan is to gather and remove some excess horses and control the remaining population with castration of some males and chemical fertility control of some females. The goal is to establish stable herds of about 60 percent male and 40 percent female.

There are already about 45,000 “wild” horses being held in storage pens across the West at a cost of $50 million a year.

The Friends suit claims an Environmental Impact Statement is required for all “major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.”

But the “Decision Record” signed by Elko District BLM Manager Jill Silvey clearly states that following “public review” she found the plan “will not have a significant impact to the human environment, and that the Environmental Impact Statement is not required.” This is backed up by a 361-page Environmental Assessment and a four-page Finding of No Significant Impact.

Though the federal lawsuit claims there was a lack of public overview, it states there were 4,940 comments submitted to the BLM during a public comment period.

Silvey’s decision notes, “The BLM received over 4,940 comment submissions during the public comment period; the majority of those submissions (more than 4,780 or 97%) were form letters. Form letters are generated from a singular website from a non-governmental organization, such as an animal advocacy group. Comments identified on form letters were considered along with the rest of the comments received, but as one collective letter. … Letters and e-mails were received both in support of and in opposition to the gather.”

The lawsuit wonders all over the legal rangeland, ruminating about the impact of sterilization on social behavior in herds.

It spouts such pseudo-scientific folderol as this: “A potential disadvantage of both surgical and chemical castration is loss of testosterone and consequent reduction in or complete loss of male-type behaviors necessary for maintenance of social organization, band integrity, and expression of a natural behavior repertoire.”

But the lawsuit fails to ever address the fact the feral horses are currently starving and dying of thirst due to their excess numbers, much less their impact on wildlife, ranching and recreation.

The suit demands that the court block the population control plan, and, of course, seeks for themselves “reasonable costs, litigation expenses, and attorneys’ fees.”

Meanwhile, the BLM argues, “A gather of wild horses from the area is also necessary to prevent continued degradation of rangeland resources, and the unnecessary death or suffering of individual wild horses that are being currently impacted by a lack of water and forage. The BLM is required to manage multiple uses to avoid continued degradation of the rangeland, and reduce the potential for catastrophic loss of animals.”

The courts should let the BLM try its management plan for a couple of years and hear the horse huggers’ suit later if it is not working. Doing nothing while the litigation languishes is not an option.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

BLM halts wild horse contraceptive experiment after being threatened with lawsuit

Jim Havens, a board member of the Pine Nut Wild Horse Advocates, explains how he tracks mustangs to shoot them with a contraceptive dart during a presentation at the Fish Springs Fire Station in Gardnerville, Nev. (AP photo)

Good grief, the horse huggers are squabbling among themselves.

A the end of April the AP send out a feature story about a public-private partnership in which private citizens would shoot wild horses with contraceptive darts in order to reduce the serious overpopulation of the herd in the Pine Nut Range.

The Bureau of Land Management had reached an agreement in 2014 to experiment in that area with a contraceptive called PZP.

The BLM was being aided by the Pine Nut Wild Horse Advocates in Gardnerville and the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign. It was hoped that the contraceptives would eliminate the need to roundup excessive horses and put them in pens for the rest of their lives at taxpayer expense.

BLM suspended the project Monday after a group calling itself the Friends of Animals threatened to sue, claiming the drug somehow harms the horses, according to an internal email obtained by AP.

According to the AP account, the group claims research suggests PZP may have physical, behavioral and social effects on wild horses — including causing mares that cannot get pregnant to abandon the herd.
Apparently, the BLM and other federal land agencies will fight to the last dime of our tax money if a ranch, a county or a mining company challenge its arbitrary plans, but will fold at the mere threat of litigation from a self-styled environmental group.
Deniz Bolbol, one the locals working on the contraceptive effort, told the AP she hopes the project will resume once the BLM completes a review, but fears some horses may end up in corrals instead

“This is a lawsuit filed by people sitting in an office in Connecticut against the folks in Nevada doing the hard work on the ground to keep wild horses free on the range,” Bolbol was quoted as saying. “If this group wants to help wild horses they need to focus on the BLM’s current effort to conduct barbaric spaying of wild mares and the castration of stallions on the range rather than target this type of humane birth control.”

Bolbol was quoted in the earlier AP story as saying of PZP, “They maintain their natural wild and social behavior, they just can’t get pregnant.”
No one wants to hear any common sense, free market solutions.