Displaying items by tag: BLM
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April 27, 2019
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(Washington, D.C., June 7, 2017) American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is concerned by today’s order from Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) review the federal government’s Greater Sage-Grouse conservation plans. Sec. Zinke emphasized that the review would focus on potential oil and gas development on public lands.
The plans were finalized in 2015 after 5 years of collaborative effort by stakeholders across the West. Any weakening of the conservation standards laid out in the plans would likely result in further losses to a species on the brink of becoming endangered. Sage-Grouse remain at risk, with populations declining in several states.
The existing plans were designed to halt the loss of Sage-Grouse habitat, and to balance conservation with activities such as oil and gas drilling. They also include safeguards to justify the decision not to list Sage-Grouse under the Endangered Species Act.
“The Interior Department should not abandon this progress or ignore the stakeholders, including sportsmen, business owners, and conservationists, who invested years of work and countless resources into developing the existing plans,” said Holmer.
Western leaders including Gov. Matt Mead of Wyoming and Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado sent Sec. Zinke a letter in late May stating that the plans do not need significant changes. Western economies benefit from roughly $1 billion a year in economic output driven by outdoor recreation and tourism in Sage-Grouse habitat.
Many important grouse habitats have already been heavily fragmented by past oil and gas development. In Wyoming’s Buffalo Planning Area, for example, 27,122 oil wells were drilled between 1999 and 2008, with more than 10,300 additional wells planned by 2028.
(Photo by Pat Gaines)
American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.
Nonprofit Horse Rescue Group Challenges Inhumane Experimental Surgery
HINES, Ore., July 26, 2016 – Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER), a national nonprofit working to end the abuse and neglect of horses through rescue, advocacy and education, announced today it is suing the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management to stop the BLM’s experimental sterilization of wild mares in Oregon. The lawsuit was filed late yesterday in federal court in Washington D.C.
FRER’s suit contends the BLM’s intention to conduct surgical experiments on 225 wild horses, many in various stages of pregnancy, and potentially thousands more horses over time, causes harm and suffering in violation of federal law.
The sterilizations on wild mares proposed by the BLM, to be carried out in collaboration with Oregon State University, include three untested, dangerous procedures:
- Slicing open the mare’s vagina while sedated, but awake and standing, and blindly pulling out her ovaries – a risky and controversial surgical procedure even for tame mares under the best of conditions, let alone captive wild horses in a holding facility
- Burning and then cutting the sedated, but conscious horses’ fallopian tubes, a procedure that is surgically untested on horses
- Using a laser, inserted through the vagina, to scar and seal the ovaries – another surgery that has never been studied in horses
“It is unjustifiable for the BLM to conduct such barbaric sterilization experiments with a host of known risks, including death, on captive wild horses,” said Hilary Wood, President of FRER. “Performing unproven surgeries in a holding pen, let alone on the open range, is contrary to the BLM’s congressional mandate to care for wild horses, especially when responsible alternatives like the PZP contraceptive vaccine already exist to maintain population levels and ensure herd viability.”
Earlier this year, FRER filed formal comments opposing the “research” that will be done on conscious animals in long-term holding. These comments – and comments submitted by more than 20,000 members of the public – were disregarded, prompting FRER to file its suit.
“These sterilization procedures are not documented, practiced, or analyzed in non-surgical settings; they are overly invasive, and they are unlikely to have applicability for mares on public lands,” said Laureen Bartfield, DVM, an expert in population control of wild horses and the social structure of herds. “Two of the three procedures have virtually never been performed on horses, and the unvisualized removal of the ovaries, while documented in the literature, is disfavored by reputable veterinarians. The BLM’s plan is not just clinically ill advised, it constitutes animal cruelty on a large scale.”
The plans for eventual widespread sterilization of horses on the range will also run up an estimated cost to the taxpayers in the millions – and the first of the funds could be handed to OSU in the form of a BLM grant. This first group of mares to go under the knife are in BLM custody in the Hines Corral in Eastern Oregon.
FRER’s lawsuit says the experimental sterilizations represent a conflict of interest, and are not in the best interests of wild horses, but rather in the BLM’s own best interest by reducing their management load without considering their mandate to properly manage the horses.
This is not the first time the BLM has pursued surgical sterilization for wild horses. In 2011, a federal court found the bureau’s plans to castrate wild horses captured in Wyoming was of an “extreme and irreversible nature.” In 2012, the BLM was again forced to defend similar plans in federal court, and abandoned its efforts to castrate Nevada’s wild horses.
About Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER)
Front Range Equine Rescue is a 501c3 Colorado nonprofit working to end abuse and neglect of wild and domestic horses through rescue and education. Since 1997, FRER has assisted thousands of horses through its programs, and many more with expanded facilities on the East Coast. Many of FRER’s rescued horses are obtained directly from auctions and kill lots, and would have shipped to slaughter without FRER’s intervention. Through its legal advocacy, FRER has effectively prevented horses from being slaughtered for human food in the U.S., and is actively involved in preventing unnecessary and unlawful removal of wild horses and burros from public lands. For more information see www.frontrangeequinerescue.org.
Marbled Murrelet’s protected zone reduced by 98 percent, carbon sequestration cut by 38 percent
(Washington, D.C. May 16, 2016)The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is proposing a final forest plan for the forests it manages in Oregon that weakens existing protections for the threatenedMarbled Murrelet and Northern Spotted Owl. These protections were put in place in 1995 as part of President Clinton’s Northwest Forest Plan.
American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has submitted aletterto BLM, and is urging Obama administration officials to shelve the proposed plan and to keep the Northwest Forest Plan in effect until it can be updated next year in conjunction with the Forest Service.
“The Marbled Murrelet is an endangered species being placed at great risk by the BLM’s plan to increase logging in mature forests,” said Steve Holmer, ABC’s Senior Policy Advisor. “The Northwest Forest Plan provided for half-mile buffers needed to mitigate for the heavily fragmented landscape. This common-sense safeguard must be retained.”
The Marbled Murrelet nests on large branches of mature and old-growth trees. It is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act because of habitat loss caused primarily by logging of old-growth forests. An estimated 19,000 birds remain, but the Washington State population is currently in a steep 5.9 percent annual decline, and long-term population projections indicate a high risk of extinction in California and Oregon within the next 100 years.
Marbled Murrelet nests suffer heavier predation in areas where the forest is not intact. Clearcutting proposed in the BLM plan for Oregon will further fragment the landscape. The current buffers protect 503 acres of habitat based on a circular radius from the nest site. A 300-foot buffer provides for only 6.5 acres of protected habitat,a 98% reduction from the current standard.
The BLM plan calls for commercial logging that is not focused on restoration of late-successional conditions in the reserves, which raises doubt that they will function as intended. The Northwest Forest Plan would increase the amount of carbon stored in the area over the next 100 years by 82 percent, reducing the amount of heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere. But the BLM plan would sequester much less carbon--only 44 percent, a blow to efforts to fight global climate change.
In the system of late-successional reserves, the loss of carbon storage is even more glaring. The Northwest Forest Plan anticipates that reserves will have a 100 percent increase in carbon sequestration. Under the BLM plan the reserves, which will be heavily logged, will only store 58 percent more carbon.
The BLM plan is proposing a five-to-eight-year moratorium on owl take until a Barred Owl control program is initiated in the planning area. Research on the effectiveness of Barred Owl removal has just begun, and uncertainty remains as to how much Barred Owl control the public will support over the long term.
“The Northern Spotted Owl will benefit from the proposed moratorium on take, but its habitat is at greater risk over the long-term because of the extensive logging planned in the late-successional reserves,” said Holmer. “We advise placing a much longer moratorium on owl take. In about 30 years, a large amount of new, suitable owl habitat will become available under the Northwest Forest Plan as forests mature. We need to stay the course and be as protective of the owl as possible until then.”
(Photo: The Marbled Murrelet nests on the branches of mature and old-growth trees. Photo by Thomas Hamer of Hamer Environmental.)
American Bird Conservancy is the Western Hemisphere's bird conservation specialist—the only organization with a single and steadfast commitment to achieving conservation results for native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With a focus on efficiency and working in partnership, we take on the toughest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on sound science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.
(Washington, D.C., Feb. 25, 2016)The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today took action to reduce a serious threat to birds, issuing a memorandum to its field offices across the nation withguidance on how to eliminate the threat of open pipeson public lands.
Open pipes, such as uncapped PVC pipes used to mark mining claims, are death traps for hundreds of thousands of birds and other wildlife each year. Animals become trapped inside the pipes and, unable to escape, starve or die of dehydration. More than 3 million mining claims use these pipes as boundary markers.
“This is a small change that will make a big difference,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze. “Too often birds, bats, lizards, snakes, and small mammals find themselves unable to escape from pipes and vents.”
The memorandum calls for BLM staff to identify all vertical pipes on BLM-managed lands and to cap, close, remove, or screen them to prevent wildlife from becoming trapped. In addition, all vertical pipes on future facilities must have permanent caps or screens to prevent harm to wildlife. Mine-claim holders are also being encouraged to voluntarily remove PVC pipes used as mine markers and to replace them with wildlife-safe markers.
“This is a positive step in the right direction,” said Steve Holmer, Senior Policy Advisor for American Bird Conservancy, which has long advocated for eliminating this threat to birds on public lands. “The threat of open pipes can be easily prevented, and today's action moves us closer to solving this problem.”
In June, more than100 groups led by American Bird Conservancy sent a joint letter to the BLM and the USDA Forest Service, asking the two agencies to accelerate efforts to address this longstanding threat to birds. “Much work remains to be done to remove existing hazards, and long-term policies and procedures still need to be established to prevent this form of bird mortality from continuing to occur on public lands in the future,” the letter says. The groups specifically asked BLM and the Forest Service to take three key actions:
- Issue national policy directives to remove or modify existing pipes, and to delineate standards to prevent use of open pipes in the future.
- Initiate a federal rulemaking to require that mining-claim holders replace pipes that can cause mortality and to use wildlife-safe markers on all current and future claims.
- Dedicate sufficient resources annually to educate mine-claim holders on this issue; to coordinate and carry out partnership efforts to remove pipes; and to carry out necessary infrastructure improvements within the public lands and national forest systems.
“Today's memorandum makes significant progress toward establishing a national policy—the first item on the list—and outreach to mine-claim holders is also underway,” said Holmer. “We would now like to see the Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service take similar action to make sure this problem does not continue to re-occur in national forests and national wildlife refuges.”
According to the BLM publication Public Land Statistics, in 2014, 3.5 million mining claims were on record on BLM-managed lands in 11 contiguous western states and Alaska. Nevada had the most, with 1.1 million claims, followed by Utah, with 412,000 claims; Wyoming (which includes minimal numbers from Nebraska) with 314,000; California, with 311,000; and Colorado, with 285,000.
An examination of 854 pipes in the state of Nevada revealed 879 dead birds—an average of more than one bird death per pipe—as well as 113 reptiles and mammals. Of the 43 species of birds recovered from the markers by the Nevada Department of Wildlife, most were cavity nesters. The Ash-throated Flycatcher and the Mountain Bluebird were the most frequent victims, but other species commonly trapped included woodpeckers, sparrows, shrikes, kestrels, and owls.
This threat to birds has been documented from Oregon to New Mexico. In November 2011, BLM specialists in Oregon documented alarming rates of bird mortality at claims in the Burns area. One researcher stated in his written report that the toll to birds “… could be enormous … a single uncapped, vertical PVC cylinder can potentially entrap and kill dozens of native birds from multiple species.” Pipe-pulling efforts have so far documented as many as 30 bird mortalities in a single pipe.
In their June letter, the concerned groups recognized that some efforts have already been undertaken to mitigate the threat, such as BLM's creation of a flyer endorsed by partners that include American Bird Conservancy and the National Mining Association. This flyer was mailed to mine-claim holders, alerting them to the problem and urging them to replace or remediate hazardous markers. Meanwhile, Forest Service staff are covering open vent pipes on outhouses known to trap birds.
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American Bird Conservancyis the Western Hemisphere's bird conservation specialist—the only organization with a single and steadfast commitment to achieving conservation results for native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With a focus on efficiency and working in partnership, we take on the toughest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on sound science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.