Home Politics Open Letter Regarding USFS Proposed Ochoco Wild Horse Roundup

Open Letter Regarding USFS Proposed Ochoco Wild Horse Roundup

William E. Simpson’s open letter to the United States Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, regarding USFS proposed Ochoco wild horse roundup.

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TO:  The Honorable Sonny Perdue – United States Secretary of Agriculture

Ms. Victoria Christensen - Chief - United States Forest Service (USFS)

Mr. Shane Jefferies - Ochoco National Forest Supervisor

CC: Legal Dept. Friends of Animals

James Buchal - Attorney at Law - Portland, OR

Concerned wild horse advocates

Dr. Cassandra Nunez, PhD

Dr. Ross MacPhee - Senior Curator, Department of Mammalogy, Division of

Vertebrate Zoology - Professor Emeritus

Craig Downer – Wildlife Ecologist

Kathleen Hayden

Dr. Sharon LaPierre

RE: Open Letter Regarding United States Forest Service Proposed Ochoco (Big Summit - Oregon) wild horse roundup; Misinforming the public and disregarding established law and best science.

VIA EMAIL ONLY (Formal Letter via Certified US Mail to President-Elect Joe Biden (and Chief of Staff) and Sec. of Ag. will be sent by James Buchal -Esq.)

Open Letter On USFS Proposed Ochoco Wild Horse Roundup

Dear Chief Christensen, Supervisor Jeffries, et. al.:

I am writing you on behalf of myself and the thousands of very concerned American stakeholder-taxpayers, some of whom are considering bringing litigation against you and the United States Forest Service (USFS).

Claims might include those related to the arguable malfeasance being employed in the concocting of a so-called wild horse management plan by the USFS under your administration, titled; 'Draft Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact Ochoco Wild Horse Herd Management Plan and Forest Plan Amendment', hereinafter referred to as the 'Plan' (attached hereto as a PDF and offered online here;  https://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/nepa/100829_FSPLT3_5533250.pdf.

This Plan must be scrutinized under the light of truth and the latest science in regard to changes across the forest landscape due to climate change and catastrophic wildfire. As it stands, this management Plan is seriously flawed and will undoubtedly harm the ecosystem and collapse the trophic cascades in the affected Big Summit area of the Ochoco National Forest in Oregon.

A recent article and TV news report quoted a USFS spokesperson:

https://ktvz.com/news/crook-county/2020/11/19/ochoco-national-forest-plans-big-reduction-in-big-summit-wild-horses-herd/

"Seeing these horses on the landscape is really quite magnificent," Ochoco National Forest Public Affairs Officer Kassidy Kern told NewsChannel 21 on Thursday.

But there's a problem.

"The herd that we have out there right now is considerably larger than the analysis shows it probably should be," Kern said.

She said there are about 135 horses wandering the 25,000-acre territory."

Kern said there is a wild horse management plan, but it's been a while since the one for Big Summit has been updated.

"The last time this was done for this particular herd was in 1975, so it's quite outdated," she said.

Myth Busted

Based upon the foregoing USFS quote, one of the biggest misrepresentations propagated by the USFS and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is busted:

Among the falsehoods promoted by the USFS and BLM, and driven by the livestock industry, is that, there are too many wild horses because wild horse herds double their populations every four (4) years.

But nobody seems to be asking why there might even be a shred of truth in such a statement.

The Truth:

The reality is this: in livestock production (public lands grazing) the object of the game is to maximize populations (overpopulation of livestock is considered a great thing by ranchers).  In order to achieve that profit motivated goal, ranchers do two things:

  1. Kill or have killed as many apex predators as possible in order to reduce losses of livestock; and,
  2. To the greatest extent possible, eliminate any and all other grazing animals (wild horses) that might eat anything the livestock eat.

This is also why the hunting and livestock industries work well together; ranchers don’t mind if ‘other’ grazing animals are eliminated via hunting and hunters are happy to oblige.

There are according to the USFS, currently only 135 wild horses, which represents only one (1) wild horse for each 185 acres of public land in the Big Summit area of the Ochoco National Forest in Oregon.

The fact that the area’s population has arguably remained unmanaged (no roundups) for decades, and the population of wild horses has stabilized at 135 wild horses, informs any logical mind that the ecosystem is in equilibrium and should be left alone.

Keystone species wild horses are critical to the survival of many other animals in the ecosystem. Wild horses require the presence, in proper densities, of their naturally evolved predators (bear, mountain lions, wolves and coyotes) for natural selection to keep the herd’s genetics strong. This is an absolute ecological necessity and evolutionary process that the USFS (and/or BLM) and all of their scientists and so-called ‘experts’ cannot duplicate.

The push for this roundup certainly comes from the local livestock ranchers who want more cheap grazing on public lands that are as largely predator free and devoid of competing grazing herbivores as possible.  Due to profit motives, welfare ranchers are less inclined towards owning their own lands, paying taxes, and dealing with the costs related to reseeding lands suffering livestock grazing damage and the irreversible stripping of native flora seen in wilderness areas and subsequent abnormal erosion of land via livestock grazing and soils disruption [1], [2], [3].

Invasive Species Cattle and Sheep:

It is well-known scientific fact that cattle and sheep operations have wreaked more havoc on US range-lands than all other species combined over the past 5000 years, as cited by Professor Thomas L. Fleischner, Ph.D“The most severe vegetation changes of the last 5400 years occurred during the past 200 years. The nature and timing of these changes suggest that they were primarily caused by 19th-century open-land sheep and cattle ranching.” [4]

Wild Horses Graze Vegetation Needed By Deer

Another falsehood pitched to the American public:

The USFS, BLM and livestock interests regularly spread the falsehood that; ‘wild horses graze vegetation needed by deer’ in an attempt to turn the hunting industry against wild horses.

However, peer-reviewed published science informs us that is a false narrative designed to help the cattle industry, which sees wild horses as competition for their welfare ranching operations on public lands.

The Truth:

The dietary overlap for wild horses and deer was 1%, cattle and deer 4%, and wild horses and cattle was 77%. Wild horses and cattle selected foods in a significantly similar order” [5].

The statement suggesting a roundup is needed by Ms. Kern is just more obtuse conjecture based upon profit-biased hear-say and myths that are designed to enhance and further livestock production interests, seemingly at any and all costs to American tax payers and the environment.

It's way past time to address the ongoing history of corruption and malfeasance in the management of the American taxpayer's public lands and critical natural resources, including wild horses, which must be managed under the rules of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA).

*The Federal Land Policy and Management Act, or FLPMA required(s) that: “… wild horses and burros shall be considered comparably with other resource values in the formulations of land use plans” 43 CFR Sec. 4700.0-6. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has opined in regard to the 'native species' and 'wildlife' status of wild horses [6].

Ownership Of American Wild Horses

The American people are in fact stakeholders with standing in this matter, given their fractional ownership of native species American wild horses.

To be sure, wild horses that are managed by the USFS (and any other government agencies) are owned by the American people, not the USFS as I am sure you realize.

As such, you have an ongoing fiduciary duty to diligently seek and obtain, observe and use the very latest and best unbiased science and legal interpretation of the laws in the sustainable management of these national treasures; our forests and wildlife (wild horses).

Simply going through existing questionable administrative legal motions, which have proven to be part of the ongoing management failure, in order to serve the economic goals of a relatively very few profit motivated stakeholders, and thereby exposing the environment and American taxpayers to excessive costs, is a breach of your fiduciary duty to the American people.

Lack of a reasonable time period for notice and response by the USFS to Americans in regard to the proposed USFS Ochoco (Big Summit) wild horse roundup is clear, and demonstrates a lack of desire for public input by USFS.

The American public on a national scale, and especially in the western United States, have been consumed with the serious issues stemming from the worst wildfire season on record coupled with a deadly coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic, health, safety and welfare impacts.

The Roundup Is Manifestly Unreasonable

Under ordinary circumstances, the short notice and comment periods provided by the USFS to the public in regard to this (and other roundups) Plan and envisioned roundup can be debated as being manifestly unreasonable, and places an unreasonable time constraint and response burden on Americans interested in the issue.

This in itself is a legitimate complaint in that; even the government (USFS), with all of its resources, staff and tax dollars, cannot react properly under such tight time constraints and conditions related to a deadly international pandemic.

Expecting American citizens in the west, who are enduring significant costs, losses (of lives and homes), health impacts and record unemployment from unprecedented catastrophic wildfires coupled with the Covid-19 pandemic is illogical and highly unreasonable, bordering on draconian.

The so-called wild horse management plan as tendered as a ‘draft’ by the USFS, is in effect an Environmental Assessment (EA), and is titled the 'Draft Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact Ochoco Wild Horse Herd Management Plan and Forest Plan Amendment', hereinafter referred to as the 'Plan' (attached hereto as a PDF and offered online here;  https://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/nepa/100829_FSPLT3_5533250.pdf).

Obsolete And Flawed Science

The Plan as currently proposed by the USFS, which on its face relied heavily upon obsolete and flawed science, as well as *opinion by one USFS person (Mr. A. Shane Jeffries), improperly skirts around the logical requirement for a full Environmental Impact Study (EIS). Mr. Jefferies also alludes that little or no peer-reviewed science was presented in objection to the Plan in the comment period, which is also false. And to this I offer just a sampling of such science in this complaint and its References.

*(Responsible Official: The Forest Supervisor of the Ochoco National Forest is the official responsible for deciding the type and extent of management for the Ochoco Wild Horse Herd. That person is A. Shane Jeffries - Ochoco National Forest Supervisor)

The need for careful scrutiny of the Plan illuminated by the latest science and fact under a full EIS is especially needed now in a world with a changing climate where catastrophic wildfire is devastating American forests and the wildlife therein under current federal management policies at an unprecedented rate.

Agencies cooperating with the USFS (the old ‘go along to get along program’) in the misrepresentation of science are also culpable for the loss of wilderness forests and wildlife due to poor and reckless management, as the published record shows.

The established management record clearly shows that the United States Forest Service’s current forest management paradigm is an utter failure, when compared to private forest management.

So, the critically important question arises, since the USFS and all of it’s advisors, scientists and so-called ‘experts’ can’t even find success with what is supposed to be their core competency (managing trees), how can they even begin to successfully manage native species American wild horses, and the complex trophic cascades of which wild horses are a critical keystone species?  

FACT: Federal forests and the wildlife therein are being decimated by catastrophic wildfires under current USFS management policies and methods, at a rate that is approximately 400% greater than privately managed forests.

Wild Horse Roundup

The Loss Of Forests To Catastrophic Wildfire

According to a Congressional Report (https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/IF10244.pdf) and in the excerpted graph from said report (above), we see that even though privately managed forests suffer about 4-times the number of wildfires annually and private forests amount to 60% of total American forest land, the loss of forests to catastrophic wildfire under federal forest management is about 400% greater than on privately managed lands.

WHO OWNS AMERICA’S FORESTS? (https://www.stateforesters.org/timber-assurance/legality/forest-ownership-statistics/)

Wild Horse Roundup

Another researched study, Federal Forestlands In Oregon, makes the case that we need to change the way we are managing our federal forests [7].

In the Big Summit area of the Ochoco National Forest of Oregon, the forest landscape must be managed properly with an eye for mitigating catastrophic loss of forest and watersheds/riparian areas due to catastrophic wildfires using new methods.

The existing USFS management paradigm is clearly a huge failure!

Wildfires can be cost-effectively mitigated using naturally evolved methods, which require the use of an appropriate native species herbivory in environmentally sensitive areas to prevent the stripping of native flora and related adverse impacts by invasive species ruminant grazing (complex stomachs); cattle and sheep.

Re-Seeder Of Plants

Native species wild horses evolved on the north American continent as an evolved re-seeder of plants. And their grazing concurrently maintains wildfire fuel loading (grass and brush) year-round to nominal levels, according to an Oregon State University study that proves such native species herbivores grazing reduces both the frequency and intensity of wildfires [8], [9].

The falsehoods that were allowed to influence the initial Environmental Assessment (EA), the Plan, illogically and illegally reduce the required burden for conducting a full Environmental Impact Study (EIS) on the impacts of reducing the numbers of wild horses in the Ochoco herd area.  That must be addressed immediately.

Among other claims that might be brought via legal proceedings, it can be argued that the current corrupted process is a costly fraud upon the American taxpayers, whose health, safety and welfare will arguably be adversely affected by the so-called 'Plan'.

Wild horses are arguably being exterminated from America’s public lands to create more livestock grazing; and because the additional funding to the USFS and BLM for wild horse roundups are a source of incremental revenue that are likely derived from related administrative fees levied for roundup program oversight.

I intentionally use the term ‘exterminated’ because of the method that has been crafted by the USFS and BLM to manage wild horses into extinction, thereby removing any impediments to expanded livestock grazing programs on BLM managed public lands, especially wilderness lands [10], [11].

Limiting Public Push-Back

In short, the strategy that has been adopted by the USFS will arguably exterminate native species American wild horses as desired by profit-motivated people, and was carefully constructed to accomplish several key psychological milestones to limit public push-back.

The strategy is accomplished in part by the use of intellectually dishonest scientific ‘experts’ and studies funded by biased parties (companies and agencies who serve the needs of the livestock industry) that misinform and confuse the American public (taxpayers) and their elected officials into believing these falsehoods:

  • There are too many wild horses in America; and,
  • They reproduce at an astounding rate; and,
  • Wild horses are not a native species in America; and,
  • Wild horses have no natural predators; and,
  • Wild horses are damaging the landscape; and livestock benefit the landscape.

All of the foregoing statements can be proven false in the light of actual facts; (See Additional References herein below)

Wild Horse Extermination Process In America

The planned wild horse extermination process in America currently involves reducing population levels in herd areas below the numbers of breeding animals required to maintain genetic diversity and vigor of the species; and secondly, concurrently treating remaining female wild horses with chemicals (PZP and GonaCon) that cause sterility in mares as well as social disruption in family bands. The social disruption alone in any species of wildlife, including wild horses, is very detrimental, as science shows.

There is also a program on the table to spay wild horse mares using an archaic, cruel, and dangerous surgery — ovariectomy via colpotomy.

a. Arguably under the influence of the livestock industry, the USFS sets so-called (arbitrary; not based in science) ‘appropriate management levels’ (AMLs) for herds of wild horses and burros grazing public lands that Congress set aside for wild horses to numbers of animals well below what is required to maintain robust genetic diversity and genetic vigor.

The minimum (not optimal) number of breeding wild horses in any immediate geographic herd area (Herd Area) must be 200 (or more) wild horses according to the best science. This statement is supported by extensive science in genetics and animal husbandry, including work by Dr. Cassandra Nunez, PhD, as cited herein below [12].

b. The USFS and BLM engage in highly questionable herd counts (no accounting audits) in establishing their so-called AMLs for herd areas and are largely based upon guess-work since wild horses move rapidly through a forested landscape and are difficult to track and count. The USFS and BLM also greatly exaggerate rates of reproduction, in some cases citing herd reproduction rates that are biologically impossible [13], [14], [15].

In order to properly manage America’s natural resources, especially timber and wildlife resources in remaining American wilderness areas such as the Ochoco National Forest, we must take care in engaging the correct choice of large herbivores on such lands. And there is no doubt that wild horses are the correct herbivores for wilderness lands where threatened and endangered flora exist, and where catastrophic wildfires threaten both the flora and fauna of such precious lands [16]


References:

[1] Cattle Grazing Effects on Macroinvertebrates in an Oregon Mountain Stream; Rangeland Ecology and Management 60(3), 293-303, (1 May 2007) James D. McIver and Michael L. McInnis; https://doi.org/10.2111/1551-5028(2007)60[293:CGEOMI]2.0.CO;2

[2] Project to Reform Public Land Grazing in Northern California   https://wildcalifornia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Annual-Report_2015_final-final.pdf

[3] Evolution of wild horses and cattle and the effect on range damage; https://www.horsetalk.co.nz/2017/09/25/evolution-wild-horses-cattle-effect-range-damage/

[4] Land Held Hostage: A History of Livestock and Politics; Thomas L. Fleischner, Ph.D. https://www.academia.edu/11886843/Fleischner_Land_Held_Hostage_A_History_of_Livestock_and_Politics

[5] Foods of wild horses, deer, and cattle in the Douglas Mountain area, Colorado. Hansen, R. M., Clark, R. C., & Lawhorn, W. (1977). Journal of Range Management, 30(2), 116-118. https://repository.arizona.edu/handle/10150/646893

[6] The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California recognized wild horses as native species, explaining that BLM “establishes Appropriate Management Levels (“AMLs”) for populations of native species - including wild horses, burros, and other wildlife - and introduced animals, such as livestock.” In Defense of Animals, et al. v. U.S. Dept. Interior, et al., No. 12-17804, *6 (9th Cir. May 12, 2014). On Sep 28, 2011 (See Craters AR at 16698. Memorandum Decision & Order) The court addresses “sensitive” species pursuant to BLM's 2001 Special Status Species Policy. This Policy requires that “sensitive” species be afforded, at a minimum, the same protections as candidate species for listing under the ESA. It called on BLM managers to “obtain and use the best available information deemed necessary to evaluate the status of special status species in areas affected by land use plans . . . .” See Policy at § 6840.22A. Under the Policy, those land use plans “shall be sufficiently detailed to identify and resolve significant land use conflicts with special status species without deferring conflict resolution to implementation-level planning.”

[7] Federal Forestlands In Oregon: https://oregonforests.org/sites/default/files/2017-08/Federal_Forestlands.pdf

[8] Collapse of the world’s largest herbivores: "By altering the quantity and distribution of fuel supplies, large herbivores can shape the frequency, intensity, and spatial distribution of fires across a landscape”.  William J. Ripple1, Thomas M. Newsome1,2,Christopher Wolf1, Rodolfo Dirzo3, Kristoffer T. Everatt4, Mauro Galetti5, Matt W. Hayward4,6, Graham I. H. Kerley4, Taal Levi7, Peter A. Lindsey8,9, David W. Macdonald10, Yadvinder Malhi11, Luke E. Painter7, Christopher J. Sandom10, John Terborgh12 and Blaire Van Valkenburgh13  http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/4/e1400103.full

[9] Rewilding: Jozef Keulartz. "The removal of large herbivores has adverse effects on landscape structure and ecosystem functioning. In wetter ecosystems, the loss of large herbivores is associated with an increased abundance of woody plants and the development of a closed-canopy vegetation. In drier ecosystems, reductions of large grazers can lead to a high grass biomass, and thus, to an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires. Together, with the loss of a prey base for large carnivores, these changes in vegetation structures and fire regimes may trigger cascades of extinctions (Bakker et al., 2016; Estes et al., 2011; Hopcraft, Olff, & Sinclair, 2009; Malhi et al., 2016)." http://oxfordre.com/environmentalscience/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199389414.001.0001/acrefore-9780199389414-e-545

[10] Wild horses: Are they being managed to extinction? William E. Simpson II; https://www.horsetalk.co.nz/2018/02/24/wild-horses-managed-to-extinction/

[11] MANAGED TO EXTINCTION? A 40th Anniversary Legal Forum assessing the

1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses & Burros Act; TRANSCRIPT: ROSS MACPHEE, Curator, Division of Vertebrate Zoology, American Museum of Natural History (AMNH): https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-zNiS1uqCWZ9PimwJpaVdY7NC57hxdGKDCLXbCEYb8c/edit

 

[12] Dr. Cassandra Nunez – PhD:  Published research: https://www.nrem.iastate.edu/people/cassandra-m-nu%C3%B1ez

[13] Influence of ruminant digestive processes on germination of ingested seeds; https://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/v405sg230

[14] Ruminant Digestion: https://www.mun.ca/biology/scarr/Ruminant_Digestion.html

[15] Public lands bear the ecological brunt of livestock grazing: https://www.horsetalk.co.nz/2020/11/21/horses-public-lands-ecological-brunt-livestock/

[16] Wild Horse Fire Brigade - Rebalancing North American Ecosystems:  https://grazelife.com/blog/wild-horse-fire-brigade-lessons-in-rebalancing-north-american-ecosystems-by-rewilding-equids/


Additional References:

*Yes world, there were horses in Native culture before the settlers came

https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/yes-world-there-were-horses-in-native-culture-before-the-settlers-came-JGqPrqLmZk-3ka-IBqNWiQ?

*Wild Horses as Native North American Wildlife: https://awionline.org/content/wild-horses-native-north-american-wildlife

 

 

 

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