Tuesday, April 19, 2011

From PPJ Gazette

BLM’s sweet deal (paid for with your tax dollars, of course!)

Debbie Coffey Copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved

Investigative reporter/PPJ


While many Americans have lost their homes or worry about losing their homes, and worry about finding or keeping their jobs, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) seems to be spending your hard earned tax dollars like high rollers.

The BLM has its hand out at appropriations hearings asking for even more money for their mismanaged Wild Horse and Burro Program. Where’s your money going?

Look at one example. Troy Adams/Broken ArrowUSAhas the contract for theIndian Lakes Road(AKA Broken Arrow) short term wild horse and burro holding facility inFallon,NV. How does a guy fromCalifornia, who sold a cloned cow, get enough knowledge in wild horse behavior, and enough ability in safely handling wild horses, to win a bid to manage a facility that can hold up to 3,000 of our wild horses?

Troy Adams/Broken ArrowUSAcontract with the BLM is for 5 years (1/01/2010 to 12/31/2015):

Base year (2010 – 2011) – $2,525,000 with an option for “additional labor” for$127,920 ($24.60 per hour, per laborer) to FREEZEBRAND, RETAG, TRIM FEET, ETC. (same tasks apply to years below)

Year 1 (2011-2012) – $3,640,875 with an option for “additional labor” for $130,468($25.09 per hour)

Year 2 (2012 – 2013) – $3,759,500 with an option for “additional labor” for $133,068($25.59 per hour)

Year 3 (2013 – 2014) – $3,832,500 with an option for “additional labor” for $135,720($26.10 per hour)

Year 4 (2014 – 2015) – $3,905,500 with an option for “additional labor” for $138,424($26.62 per hour)

So, the estimated 5 year TOTAL is $17,663,375, with optional “additional labor” adding $665,600 to that the total is ($18,328,975). (Note: The money in this contract is based on estimated feed days. See details of this at the end of the article.) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Over $18 million in 5 years. And since Troy Adams supplies the land, pens and corrals the first year, and it’s not an expense every year, why is there such a huge increase in the amount of money for in the remaining years of the contract?

The contractor (Troy Adams) supplies: land, pens, corrals, feed, salt, minerals, water and personnel for general tasks.

The BLM: pays for veterinary care, a farrier, hoof care (hey, are we paying for thistwice, since TRIM FEET is listed above?), the working chute (squeeze chute), and prepares the paperwork for shipment of animals to other locations, prepares all wild horses and burros prior to shipment and paperwork related to vaccination or “other action taken.”

One surprising item in this contract, on Page 5 of 15 (7 a.) is that this facility had to get permits required for a Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) according to the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection. So, in more ways than one, it seems that our wild horses are considered to be, and are being treated as, livestock.


In record keeping:

The contract stipulates on Page 4, (section 3 e.) that the contractor (Troy Adams/Broken Arrow USA) Provide regular observation on a daily basis of horses and burros on site and a record keeping system that documents the frequency and results of observations.”

Note that on Page 9 G.2 – CONTRACTING OFFICER’S REPRESENTATIVE (COR) AND/OR PROJECT INSPECTOR “The COR or PI does not have the authority to modify or in any way amend the terms of this contract.” (The COR is John Neill, BLM manager of Palomino Valley and the PI is BLM employee Ross Ruf.)

In a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA), I asked for records that the BLM contract with Troy Adams requires that he keep.

In a July 15, 2010 letter of response from Amy Leuders (she’s now the Acting Nevada BLM Director), she stated that “Formal records for daily observations have not been required or maintained. Verbal communications on facility updates and animal observations are conducted daily to the COR by either the facility veterinarian, project inspector or facility contractor.”

There are veterinary reports. But, are the only horses Sanford observes daily the sick horses in the sick pens? Does Richard Sanford walk around the entire property every day to look at all of the horses, or does he just make a quick stop at the sick pens? (On tours, it took us about two hours to walk around and observe about 1,900 of the horses on the property, and even then we felt rushed.) Richard Sanford is also hired as a vet for horses at the BLM’s Palomino Valley facility, and the drive between the two locations takes about an hour each way.

To my knowledge, I haven’t received any documents with any notes or any observations by Troy Adams. Does Troy Adams notice anything, and if so, what is it?

Page 4 of 15 (3 g.) states: “Death of animals must be recorded with each animal’s identification number and physical description, or if the brand is unreadable, a good physical description.”

Online, it looks like the facility didn’t start recording the freezemarks of dead horses until May 28, 2010, and the veterinary reports didn’t start recording freezemarks until May 22, 2010. Just a gender and age doesn’t seem like a “good” description. It doesn’t take a huge effort to add something like palomino or roan or bay.

Even if updating this information online had become too much of a task, there should have been more detailed records available for a FOIA request.

Also, Page 4 of 15 (3 f.) states that the contractor “Provide a record keeping system that identifies the pen location, sex, age group and quantity per pen of inventory animals. The contractor will update the form on a bi-monthly basis.”

In handling and safety of the horses:

The contract stipulates:

Page 4, (3 j.) Contractor is to provide personnel that are intimately familiar with the health requirements of equines.

Page 4, (3 k.) Have personnel with knowledge, skill and ability to safely handle wild horses and burros.

Page 4 (4 a.) All horses shall be handled, treated, and maintained in a humane manner.

Over 200 horses have died at this facility in less than 14 months. Descriptions seem vague, so it’s difficult to get exact counts of how many horses died of certain causes, but, just a quick estimate in general of some of the causes: it seems like about 40 from hyperlipemia/general metabolic failure (trouble adapting to hay) with about another 32 from poor condition/unable to maintain weight. About 27 died from spinal/neck injuries, of which about 8 spinal/neck injuries happened IN THE SQUEEZE CHUTE.

About 15 euthanized because of leg/shoulder/pelvis fractures. There are about 40 “unknown” causes of death. About 9 foaling complications, about 6 gelding complications (3 of these were pulmonary hemorrhages from anesthesia) and about 5 deaths related to criptorchid (euthanized for this or after surgery for this). Why would the BLM even geld horses with criptorchid? (Criptorchid means the testacles haven’t descended and they don’t produce fertile sperm.) About 12 deaths from pneumonia and respiratory infections. About 5 were euthanized due to club foot. About 3 with sloughed hooves.

It’s important to note that neither the BLM nor the contractor seem to keep any documentation on individual foals until they’re 4-5 months old, when the foals are given a freezemark.

There’s a small house on the front of the property at theIndian Lakes Roadfacility, and when I attended tours, it looked like this house was used to house some of the workers. Judging by the vehicles outside, it appears they could’ve been seasonal workers or wranglers. There’s a lot of unemployment inNevada, so were seasonal workers or out of work cowboys paid $24.60 an hour?

More importantly, seasonal workers who might’ve been living on the property, or any other people living in that house, have access to our wild horses 24/7. Were any criminal background checks done on those seasonal workers or people living on the property? What oversight is there by the BLM of workers who have access to our wild horses?

The online weekly facility reports stopped giving the cumulative deaths for horses around August 21, 2010, giving the reason for stopping as “due to the fact that it no longer reflects only Calico horses.” Are they keeping track of horse deaths according to Herd Management Areas?

There is no longer any public access to this facility, even though your tax dollars are paying for it. It seems that photographs and video documenting what the public saw on tours caused the BLM a negative “image” problem. Troy Adams signed contract modification 0002 on 3/22/2010, for public tours for 5 years (until 2015), so was it a breach of this contract that the tours were stopped?

It seems like on most days, Troy Adams gets paid a lot of money just to (maybe) walk around and look at the horses once a day, call John Neill (unless the vet or PI call John) and maybe order hay and supplies.

Sweet. I want his job. How did he get so lucky?

There is little accountability by and NO public access to the Indian Lakes Roadfacility. These issues are part of a First Amendment Rights lawsuit filed against the BLM by Laura Leigh in LEIGH v. SALAZER. You can find out more about this athttp://wildhorseeducation.org

Documents mentioned in this article are available in the “Reading Room” athttp://wildhorseeducation.org

(Note: original BASE YEAR contract dated 5/27/09 was for $25,000, with a modification for base year dated 1/19/2010 for an additional $2,500,000)

The money in this contract is based on estimated feed days. The contractor is reimbursed based on the actual number of feed days per month. A feed day is defined as: “The price to feed one animal for one day, except mare pairs, which count as one animal feed day.” (mare pairs are a mare and her foal). The contractor is paid for a guaranteed minimum quantity of 137,500 Animal Feed Days, and the maximum is 4,562,500 Animal Feed Days for the life of the contract.

To learn more about our wild horses:






Daily & WeeklyIndianLakesWild Horse Facility/veterinary Reports (1/26/2010 – 5/28/2010)

Indian Lakes Road Facility Weekly Updates http://ww.blm.gov/nv/st/en/prog/wh_b/Indian_Lakes_Facility.html

Broken ArrowUSAcontracts;

Contract # LO9PC00202 date issued 5/27/2009

Contract # L09PS00482 date issued 5/27/2009

Amendment/Modification No. 0001, effective 1/19/2010

Amendment/Modification No. 0002, effective 3/22/2010

Monday, April 4, 2011

BLM .. same old same old

Call on Congress Now to De-Fund the Wild Horse Roundups

wild horsesor hold the BLM to 2010 spending levels.

It is no secret that BLM's program for the wild horses and burros is to round them up, remove them from the range and warehouse them in holding facilities. What is a mystery is why taxpayers would foot the bill for managing wild animals in this way.

For Fiscal Year (FY) 2010, from October 1, 2009 to September 30, 2010, the BLM removed 10,137 horses and 476 burros; 443 mares were treated with the fertility control drug PZP. The total FY 2010 program expenditures were $65 million, of which $44.6 million was spent on roundup, removal and holding.

So far during FY 2011, which began on October 1, 2010, the BLM has removed 5,825 horses and 75 burros and PZP-treated 469 mares. So far in FY 2011, $4.5 million has been spent on roundup and removal; holding costs for FY 2011 are projected to be $38.5 million.

Another 4,686 wild horses and 150 burros are slated for capture and removal from herd management areas this year, 2011. If BLM continues on its present course for FY2011-FY2012, the agency will roundup and remove from the range 28,000 wild horses and burros at a total cost of almost $223M over the life of these animals. This would bring the total number of wild horses and burros held in holding facilities to nearly 46,000. (Though BLM appears unable to keep track of the wild horses and burros trapped in its holding facilities.)

Ginger Kathrens, founder of The Cloud Foundation, recently told the BLM, "Please consider that the removal of a mustang costs already strapped American taxpayers over $2,000 in addition to a possible $2,098 to $470/year holding cost for the rest of the horse's life if they are not adopted or sold. Why not apply the [these funds] to range improvements, livestock and fence removals, noxious weed treatment, water improvements, and any number of projects that would improve the condition of the [herd] area for wild horses and all the other wildlife species?"

These are not the only costs for taxpayers. The primary reason for removal of these animals has been to make way for cattle grazing. The cattle industry receives a substantial taxpayer subsidy from livestock grazing on public lands. The industry pays only $1.35 per animal under 18,000 grazing permits and leases on 258 million acres of public lands Grazing livestock on public lands is a "$132 million loss to the American taxpayer each year and independent economistshave estimated the true cost at between $500 million and $1 billion dollars a year." Despite this, only 2-4% of beef production is from grazing cattle on public lands.

BLM's planning documents, the agency's land use plans and environmental assessments almost always cite degradation of the range and lack of water as a reason to justify roundups and removals of wild horses and burros. But BLM rarely mentions the thousands of cattle or sheep grazing on these lands, let alone as a substantial cause of any range degradation or use of water.

Yet, in 1990, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found the range was in the best condition it had been in during the past century. The GAO found any degradation was the result of livestock grazing and suggested removal of cattle.

To illustrate the absurdity of blaming wild horses and burros for range degradation or water loss, in zeroing out 12 herd management areas in Nye and Lincoln counties, Nevada in 2009, for example, the BLM estimated there were 1,357.43 acres per wild horse in one area, about 350 horses; and 3,377.38 acres per horse in another herd area, about 270 horses. The BLM would have us believe one wild horse per 3,377.38 acres caused substantial degradation of the range and water sources but that the thousands of cattle left there caused no harm at all.

A full year continuing appropriations bill for 2011, H.R. 1, that has been approved by the House of Representatives, would reduce the BLM's total budget by $2 million but does not restrict the roundup, removal or holding wild horses and burros in facilities. The Obama administration has requested an additional $12 million over 2010 expenditures just for more roundups, removal and holding wild horses and burros. The Senate is considering a year long continuing appropriations resolution for 2011 that would authorize $75.7 million for the wild horses and burros program. It is expected the entire increase as was the case in 2010 would be spent on - you guessed it - roundups, removals and holding.

A vote will be held in Congress on the FY 2011 budget resolution on or before April 8.

In a recent Wild Horses and Burros Advisory Board meeting in Phoenix, Dean Bolstad, Deputy Division Chief, BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program, announced there would be no more roundups in 2011 unless Congress agreed to the additional funding. A challenge to Congress.

And, another ploy. BLM issued this week for public comment Environmental Assessments (EAs) for roundups in theThree Fingers and Jackies Butte Herd Management Areas in southwestern Oregon. The plan is to roundup during the August heat 460 mustangs, 310 of which will be permanently removed from the range, leaving only 75 mustangs. BLM claims as always there is not enough forage or water for the horses, but that is probably because the agency allocates nearly three times more forage and water to cattle than to wild horses in this area.

Despite efforts to improve the image of its wild horses and burros program, BLM seems intent on continuing the roundup and removal of wild horses from the range, using helicopters to run down the terrified animals, and then warehouse them in holding facilities. This despite no good information as to the census of wild horses and burros on the range. The Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act requires the BLM to maintain a "current inventory" of wild horses and burros" on the range. The BLM's own Office of Inspector General found in a 2010 report that the agency's numbers lack a scientific basis, oversight or checks and balances.

Also, BLM spends less than 3% of its program budget on monitoring and taking a census of horses on the range. It's unclear how the agency could really know the number of wild horses and burros that are still free-roaming.

A report recently submitted to members of Congress, Refuting Fy2011 Budget Justifications and Request to Defund Roundups and Removals, charges "estimates used by the BLM to support funding are not based on the best scientific, peer-reviewed data or state-of-the-art technology. The BLM's data has proven to be continually inaccurate and unreliable ... At this time, all outside authorities, including Congress, rely solely on the data the BLM provides, although its accuracy cannot be verified or substantiated." For more on the numbers... And, go here for more on questionable numbers from BLM....

What we do know is that BLM has removed wild horses and burros permanently from nearly 21 million acres of lands that were originally herd areas.

The Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, 16 U.S.C. Sections 1331 et seq., says that before removing wild horses and burros from the range, a determination must be made that they are "excess", that there is an overpopulation, and removal is indicated "so as to restore a thriving natural ecological balance to the range, and protect the range from the deterioration associated with overpopulation". 16 U.S.C. §1333(b)(2) BLM is also supposed to set appropriate management levels, the number of wild horses or burros that a herd area can support.

According to the report, Refuting Fy2011 Budget Justifications, despite "BLM's stated goal for reducing national wild horse and burro populations to 26,600", the agency is actually reducing "on-the range populations to the midpoint of Appropriate Management Level (AML) or lower.... without Congressional oversight or approval, without general public knowledge or input". BLM is also systematically lowering the AML for herd management areas. In other words, BLM is removing wild horses and burros where they are not "excess", in violation of WFRHBA. According to the report, more than 2/3 of wild horse herds do not have enough numbers to remain genetically viable.

Even if BLM's estimate of a 20% annual reproduction rate is correct and if BLM receives funding for its 2011-2012 plans, using BLM's own numbers, "remaining populations on the range will be less than 5,700 animals."

And, of course, study after study has demonstrated "these rates [from BLM] are generally inconsistent with all research on reproductive rates". 3.1%-13% seem to be more realistic annual reproduction rates depending on the area and the herd. Meaning there will likely be far fewer wild horses and burros left than the projection of 5,700 animals.

BLM has other ways of justifying removal of more and more wild horses and burros besides manipulating census or AML: The BLM has authorized itself to divide herd areas into "herd management areas", something not authorized by WFRHBA. 43 CFR 4710.3-1. In this way, with no statutory authority at all, BLM has limited wild horses and burros' access to thousands of acres that were historically their herd areas. This is done without thought about the horses' seasonal migration patterns or available resources. The BLM then removes wild horses and burros from the artificially created "herd management areas" on the basis there is insufficient forage, water or habitat! BLM also targets them for removal if they cross the artificial boundaries into their original herd areas.

Taking this tactic even further, BLM and the U.S. Forest Service, for example, actually plan now to erect a fence to cut off wild horses and burros from traditional summer grazing lands in the Custer National Forest area. There is litigation pending to try to stop this.

More recently, BLM has claimed "emergency" conditions, drought and the like, as reasons for rounding up and removing horses. In the Tuscarora round up, for example, BLM did not mention "emergency" conditions as a reason for the round up in any of its planning documents. Then when horses began collapsing during the 2010 summer roundup from dehydration as they were forced by helicopters to run for miles in the searing heat, BLM claimed the round up was necessary because of drought conditions.

BLM has also labeled wild horses and burros as "feral" or "estray", which are defined by state law and are generally domesticated horses that have been left to fend for themselves and become wild. It's not easy to tell the difference between a feral, estray or wild horse. As feral or estray horses, BLM claims they belong to the state and can be rounded up and removed. BLM ignores that the WFRHBA is supposed to protect "all unbranded and unclaimed horses and burros on public lands of the United States". 16 U.S.C. Sec. 1332

BLM has opted for roundups and removal of wild horses and burros at great cost to the taxpayer and contrary to the requirements of the WFRHBA which mandates that these animals roam free of "capture" or "harassment" on public lands where there were found when the law was passed in 1971. 16 U.S.C. Sec. 1331 BLM is to manage the wild horses and burros on these lands at the "minimal feasible level" which should mean instead of roundups that BLM removes fences or other barriers to water and traditional migration routes, includes wild horses and burros in a fair allocation of forage, and takes steps to assure they remain self-sustaining and genetically viable.

As District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled in the case, Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Coalition, Inc. v. Salazar, No. 06-1609 (D.D.C 2009):

"It would be anomalous to infer that by authorizing the custodian of the wild free roaming horses and burros to 'manage' them, Congress intended to permit the animals' custodian to subvert the primary policy of the statute by capturing and removing from the wild the very animals that Congress sought to protect from being captured and removed from the wild. ...[T]he statute expressly provides that BLM's 'management activities shall be at the minimal feasible level . . . .'

It is difficult to think of a 'management activity' that is farther from a 'minimal feasible level' than removal."


Right now before Congress votes on another continuing budget resolution on or before April 8, write (faxes are best) orcall your U.S. representative and senators found here or call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak to your U.S. representative and senators. Urge them not to increase the BLM's budget this year or de-fund the roundups except in the cases of true, verifiable emergencies, at least until the National Academy of Sciences has completed its study of the wild horses and burros program, and we can determine appropriate management for these animals, identify public lands where wild horses and burros could be returned to roam free, obtain an accurate census and set appropriate AMLs to ensure the herds are self-sustaining and genetically viable, and managed at the minimal feasible level.