BLM “Do-Sa-Dos” with Facts, Public, Advocates and Animals

The Bureau of Land Management employs approximately 12,000 people (10,000 permanently and 2,000 temporarily, according to Wikipedis’s “Bureau of Land Management” article), and it sometimes seems as if the only ones we in “the public” ever hear from are the ubiquitous “spokesmen” and “spokeswomen” whose titles include the words “marketing,” “public affairs” or “communications” and whose main task is to sell the public and the press on “the BLM side” of whichever controversy is current.

Women seem to be over-represented as a gender in this particular job description at the BLM, particularly in recent years, but the BLM “spokesmen” are no slouches at spin either.  The way it usually happens is that some state official, environmentalist, private landowner, member of Congress or other group or individual expresses dismay over something the BLM has done or not done in its role as steward of publicly-owned federal land.  The BLM then trots out a “spokes” guy or gal to tell “the BLM side” of the issue (how the “BLM side” differs from “the truth” is a real question).

Statements that issue from the BLM are one-way only and often include phrases such as “defended the agency’s actions,” “did not respond to e-mail and telephone inquiries,” and “declined further comment.”  Very few journalists ever ask follow-up questions so the statements are often left to stand without examination.  This public relations square dance has been going on for decades and shows no signs of changing any time soon–despite the big “CHANGE” in Washington, D.C..

Recently, a BLM “spokeswoman” and a BLM contractor made statements suggesting and inferring that advocates for wild horses and burros caused deaths to wild horses in the Calico Complex and Tuscarora “gathers” by filing lawsuits that caused delays in the BLM and contractor’s plans to haze and trap the animals.  (I do not provide quotes or links to the articles here because I believe these statements are defamatory.)

In both cases, the wild horse advocates used legal process, not self help, to make their points.  They hired lawyers.  They filed pleadings and motions.  This is our system of justice.  This is how we do things in America.

The planned round-ups were scheduled to meet BLM goals for “getting to AML” and to coordinate with contractor schedules.  These were not “emergency gathers,” although the Tuscaroro round-up became one after a lawsuit was filed.

The Calico Complex round-up, according to the Environmental Assessment filed to support it, was specifically and explicitly not an “emergency gather,” as described here:

During the September, 2009 inventory wild horse body conditions were acceptable with body condition scores averaging 4-5 (moderately thin to moderate).  Some thin animals were observed that were assumed to be older animals.  Older animals were noted in the valleys and toe slopes in the lower elevations, as they were likely unable to travel to better foraging areas in the higher/steeper elevations.

Drought conditions have affected the Complex since 2006.  Weather station data for the area indicates that precipitation levels from 2006-2009 have been the lowest on record since the mid-1980’s. There are already limited waters within the Complex, and water availability has been further impacted by drought.  Drought conditions reduce the flow at spring and developed water sources. With reduction of water availability compounded by an excess population of wild horses, animals are forced to trail farther and farther from water to avoid competition and locate adequate forage. As conditions further deteriorate and water is in short supply, wild horses will hang at waters, waiting for their turn, or waiting for the water catchments to fill back up.  They become more and more weak as they become dehydrated, and can no longer trail long distances to forage. Eventually all forage near waters is consumed, and wild horses lose body weight.

Mares and foals are affected the worst, with mares unable to both maintain acceptable body weight and provide milk for foals.  Studs may maintain better body weight, but become engaged in fighting as bands travel to remaining water sources to drink.  These types of conditions usually require an emergency gather to save the population from death.  Conditions within the Complex have not deteriorated to this point, but without a gather to reduce numbers to the low AML, emergency conditions are likely inevitable, as repeatedly shown in other HMAs within Nevada where emergency removals have been necessary.

For a BLM spokeswoman to later make a claim that a lawsuit filed to stop the Calico Complex round-up was somehow improper when the agency’s own documents clearly state that this was not an “emergency” situation is not only a bald-faced lie, it is a malicious bald-faced lie.  What has come to be known as the “wild horse issue” (actually, wild horses and burros or WH & Bs) has devolved into a war of words, with the animals themselves collateral damage.  Our right to legal process may be the next casualty of this particular war.

As Bugs Bunny said, “And that is all.”

2 Responses to “BLM “Do-Sa-Dos” with Facts, Public, Advocates and Animals”
  1. Lisa LeBlanc says:

    You must admit, when it comes to CYA, nobody dances better than the Ladies of the BLM.

    Not but the most ignorant among us would believe 12 Wild Horses run for a very long distance died of pre-existing dehydration.
    The Bureau hadn’t even started the Tuscarora roundup before the court papers were filed. The ’emergency’ was already in effect because someone with Air Flight capabilities didn’t perform due diligence over the area before running a massive amount of animals a massive amount of miles on a Mid-Summer’s morn in 93 degree heat.

    How hard would it have been for a Bureau Someone to step up, ONE DAMN TIME and say”Yes. We did. We screwed up. Can’t blame the Horses. Can’t blame the Advocates. We made an error. ”

    I’m 50; maybe I’ll live long enough to hear those words from the Bureau. But I ain’t holding my breath.

  2. morganlvr says:

    I’m not holding my breath either. What really blows my mind is that a Federal Judge believed this last minute testimony despite what had gone before. Incredible!

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