My recall of the conversation with Jarod Bybee, Wild Horse and Burro Specialist, Pryor Mountain Herd on Tuesday, August 30th, 2011
These are my recollections and not everything is in the exact order, but close enough.
As a preface to the actual phone call, I must have called the number for Mr. Bybee (that was on the scoping letter) at least eight times and by the time I actually talked to (not with, but to Mr. Bybee,) I was a little frustrated with the difficulty of what should have been a simple phone call. On my eighth attempt at calling him, I finally spoke to an employee who said the voice mail system was broken and that unless someone was sitting at their desk and picked up the phone, you could not leave a message with the broken system. She promised to leave him a message on his desk. The next morning when he returned my call, right off the bat I complained about difficulty of getting in touch with him. It probably set the defensive tone of the conversation. (I might have gotten more information from him if I hadn't started the conversation with a complaint.) He apologized for the voice mail system being broken and told him I knew it wasn't his fault but just made contacting him ever so difficult.
The first question I asked him was,
Me: "Who built the fence?"
Answer: The Forest Service.
Me: "How much did it cost?"
Answer: I have no idea.
Me: "Who is it that wants the horses off that particular piece of land?"
Answer: Sheep Groups (Big Horn) and the Plains Resource Council. ( I should have asked more about these groups, such as how many people in the org, why that particular land is so important to them and why their opinions matter more than the hundreds of wild horse advocates, but didn't.
Me: "Did the BLM speak to the Forest Service about keeping the land for the use of the horses?"
Answer: All that's going to be done has been done.
Me: "But, did the BLM actually talk to the Forest Service?"
Answer: (He repeats) All that's going to be done has been done.
Me: The herd population is stable so why was there a need for another roundup with a stable population?
Answer: We are supposed to "manage" the horses.
Me: Bob Abbey has said that use of PZP was one way to avoid continued removals and warehousing of these horses and if the population was stable and could be managed with birth control, why not go that route?
Answer: The PZP probably isn't the only reason the herd population is stable.
I did ask him who set the AML and he said he did and then said something about how these things are done and I should read about them (NCRS report) and that I was accusing him of setting arbitrary numbers, etc. etc.
Me: I'm not trying to criticize, I just don't understand why there is a need for another roundup with the whole range not being utilized, a stable population and Mr. Abbey's comments that birth control would help reduce the need for further roundups.
Me: what about the water guzzlers?
Answer: Horses are not using them as much as we like.
Me: If the population is stable and the horse are using the water guzzlers and moving to other parts of the range, would there a need for another roundup?
Answer: This is only the scoping letter and nothing has been decided.
Me: "Since when does the BLM NOT do what is in the scoping letter inspire of all the protests and comments of advocates? Almost always the BLM does exactly what the scoping letter suggests, if not worse."
No real answer from him …
Me: "Can't you try harder to get the horses to move to different parts of the range by enticing them to use the water guzzlers so to reduce any deterioration of the range?"
Answer: "Well, it might help." (They are clearly not invested in doing more to get the horses to spread out across the range.)
Me: Has the range deteriorated from two years ago?
Answer: Not much change.
I then asked them to reconsider any decision to roundup and remove. That with a stable population and birth control, there should be no need to remove horses.
He was non committal.
A conversation, that was over before it began, was really over now.
If the BLM ever applied enough PZP to get stable populations, would it even matter or would the WH&B specialist continue the old cycle of roundups and removals even though the BLM director is on record saying that maintaining stable populations should reduce the need for further roundups? Maybe Abbey just hasn't made himself clear. What is clear is that the WH&B staff hasn't gotten the message.