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Awhpc Reconsideration Letter Re White Mountain Little Colorado

Awhpc Reconsideration Letter Re White Mountain Little Colorado

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Published by: American Wild Horse Preservation on Oct 22, 2012
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10/22/2012

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American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign,P.O. Box 1048, Hillsborough, NC 27278 
August 11, 2011Lance Porter, Field ManagerBureau of Land ManagementRock Springs Field Office280 Highway 191 NorthRock Springs, WY 82901-3447Via Email:l50porte@blm.gov Dear Mr. Porter,This letter is an official request on behalf of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaignfor reconsideration of your “Second Modified Decision Record” for the White Mountain andLittle Colorado Wild Horse Gather and an official protest of your failure to give the public a 30-day period for appeal of this decision document.AWHPC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable free-roaming herds forgenerations to come, as part of our national heritage. Our grassroots efforts are supported by acoalition of over 45 historic preservation, conservation, horse advocacy and animal welfareorganizations.
I. Lack of Adequate Appeal Period for Decision Record
On August 4, 2011, you issued the Second Modified Decision Record for the White Mountain –Little Colorado Herd Management Areas Wild Horse Gather (WY-040-EA11-124). Thisdocument represents the third change in plans for the proposed action since the initial decisionrecord was released on June 13, 2011.The action described in the new “Second Modified Decision Record” is completely differentthan the action implemented by either the “Modified Decision Record” or the “DecisionRecord.” As such, the Second Modified Decision Record must be accompanied by a 31 dayperiod prior to gather implementation during which the public can “participate in and requestadministrative review” of the new gather decision. [Washington Office Instruction Memorandum(IM) No. 2010-130]
 
 In a telephone conversation today with Serena Baker, Public Affairs Specialist for the BLM’sHigh Desert District Office, AWHPC was informed that the start date for the WhiteMountain/Little Colorado gather is now Saturday August 20, 2011.Not only does this start date fail to provide the required 31 day appeal period, but also it is 11days
earlier 
than the September 1, 2011 start date indicated in the “Second Modified Decision.”In addition, as recently as Friday, August 5, 2011, your attorneys with the Department of Justiceassured U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson by telephone that the roundup would notbegin until September 1, 2011.The “Second Modified Decision Record” erroneously states that, because this decision documentis implementing the proposed action in the Environmental Assessment, upon which the publichad opportunity to comment, that the 31-day appeal period is not required in this situation.However, the public has never had the required 31 day period to
appeal
the action implementedby the “Second Modified Decision,” which as stated above is different from the actionimplemented by the “Modified Decision Record” as well as from the action implemented by the“Decision Record.”Therefore, AWHPC requests the 31-day period to appeal the “Second Modified DecisionRecord,” in order to have the time necessary to file an appeal of this decision record. This meansthat that the White Mountain/Little Colorado Herd Management Area wild horse roundup shouldbegin no earlier than September 5, 2011 in order that to have the time ne. By this letter, I amcopying BLM Director Bob Abbey, BLM Associate Director Ed Roberson as well as the WhiteHouse Council on Environmental Quality, and I trust that these higher authorities will ensure thatyour field office complies with agency requirements regarding provision of an adequate appealperiod for decision records issued for agency actions.Although the BLM has not afforded the public time to file a proper appeal, the remainder of thisletter will present the reasons why we believe that BLM should reconsider its “Second ModifiedDecision” for the White Mountain/Little Colorado roundup.
II. BLM Cannot Legally Round Up and Remove Wild Horses from the
WhiteMountain and Little Colorado Herd Management Areas
 
The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (“Wild Horse Act”) directs the Secretaryof the Interior (the "Secretary") to "protect
and
manage wild free-roaming horses and burrosas components of the public lands
....
The Secretary shall manage horses and burros in amanner that is designed to achieve and maintain
a
thriving natural ecological balance on thepublic lands." 16 U.S.C. § 1333(a). All
management
activities shall be at the minimalfeasible level
...
in order to protect the natural ecological balance of all wildlife specieswhich inhabit such lands, particularly endangered wildlife
species.
 Id.
 The Act further requires BLM to "
maintain a current inventory of wild
free-roaming
horses and
burros
on given areas of public lands,"
so that BLM can "makedeterminations as
to
whether and where an overpopulation exists and whether action shouldbe taken to
remove exces
s
animals." 16 U.S.C.
§
1333(b)(l).
Upon determining that "an
 
 overpopulation exists on
a
given area of the public lands and that action is necessary toremove excess animals,
[the
Secretary] shall immediately remove excess animals from therange so as to achieve
appropriate
management levels.
ld.
at (b)(2). The Wild Horse Actdefines "excess animals" as wild
free-
roaming horses and burros "which must be removedfrom an area in order to preserve and maintain a thriving natural ecological balance andmultiple-use relationship in that area." U.S.C. § 1332(1).
In other words, excess animalsare only those animals above the
level
necessary to "maintain a thriving naturalecological balance."
 Id. See also Dahl v.
Clark,
600
F,Supp 585, 592 (D, Nev. 1984)(interpreting AML to mean the "optimum number" of wild horses which results in a thrivingnatural ecological balance and avoids a deterioration of the range);
 Animal Protection Institute
of 
 America,
109 IBLA 112 (June 7, 1989) (noting that
the
term AML is "synonymouswith restoring the range to a thriving
nat11ral
ecological balance and protecting the range
from
deterioration").
 A.
 
The removal of wild horses from White Mountain and Little Colorado HMAs is not necessary to restore a thriving natural ecological balance (TNEB) nor will the removal  of the horses achieve the goal of restoring TNEB.
BLM's decision to roundup and remove wild horses from the White Mountain/LittleColorado HMAs violates the Wild Horse Act because the decision is based on anAppropriate Management Level (AML) that was established based not on restoring therange to a thriving natural ecological balance and protecting the range from deterioration, butinstead on an AML that was established through an agreement between the livestock permittees, represented by the Rock Springs Grazing Association and BLM.Because the AMLs for the White Mountain/Little Colorado HMAs are based on
administrative
convenience, rather than sound scientific principles, BLM cannot establish that the wild
free-
roaming horses within the White Mountain/Little Colorado HMAs are "excess animals" underthe Wild Horse
Act.
Further, the removal of wild horses in excess of the illegally-determined AMLs will not restorea thriving natural ecological balance, as documented in the attached range report prepared byBob Edwards, who was a range management specialist for 30 years with the BLM.Mr. Edwards visited the White Mountain/Little Colorado HMAs over a six-day period betweenJuly 30 and August 4, and his field review included documentation at 24 locations over bothHMAs and also observations of numerous other areas. Mr. Edwards conclusions raise seriousquestions about the validity of data cited in the BLM’s Environmental Assessment on the WhiteMountain/Little Colorado wild horse roundup plan, and directly contradict the BLM’sconclusion that 696 wild horses must be removed from the area in order to restore the thrivingnatural ecological balance of the range.Mr. Edwards’ report concludes that:
 
The wild horses do not need to be removed in order to achieve the goal of achieving a thrivingnatural ecological balance, and

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