By Brieanah Schwartz, Policy Counsel
(March 18, 2020) Last May, the BLM prepared a Draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) that will affect a small herd of wild horses living in the Four Mile Herd Management Area (HMA) in southwestern Idaho, near the Oregon border.
The Four Mile HMA is comprised of 25,806 acres and the BLM has set an Appropriate Management Level (AML) of only 37-60 wild horses (roughly one horse on every 430 acres). The horses are thought to be influenced by Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse bloodlines and are seen in a variety of colors; from brown and black to paints, roans, grays, and even a few Appaloosas.
Understanding the Process
Any action a Federal agency takes that could affect the human environment triggers an environmental review of the impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
NEPA review is important for our work because this is our chance to weigh in on how the BLM is managing wild horses. During NEPA review the public has an opportunity to weigh in and potentially sway government action away from inhumane options. Further, when the BLM does not adequately use NEPA, we can cite those violations in any legal action we take to stop a detrimental action from moving forward. In short, NEPA gives us a check system on the BLM to make sure that the horses and burros interests are protected.
What is an RMP and Why Does it Matter?
An RMP is a management document that sets land-use policy in an area of public lands for roughly 10-20 years. Because of how long these documents are in effect it is crucial that we weigh in as the document is drafted in an effort to steer the BLM towards sustainable, humane management of any affected herds.
In this RMP, which includes management options for the wild horses of Four Mile, the BLM is attempting to analyze tools for future implementation in the HMA. Among the management options included for wild horse management, the BLM analyzed surgical spay via colpotomy, gelding, vasectomy, PZP, GonaCon, skewed sex ratios, and the creation of at least partially non-reproducing herds.
Therefore, AWHC submitted a Protest letter to lay out the reasons why the RMP and accompanying Environmental Impact Statement are inadequate to ensure compliance with the procedural and substantive mandates of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and NEPA. We had to stand up for the horses of the Four Mile HMA and make sure that the agency does their due diligence to comply with these statutes and manage the horses humanely.
If this RMP stands, there will be a future opportunity for the public to comment on a management plan implementing the options analyzed in this RMP. We will let you know if and when the BLM moves forward with an EA analyzing a specific management plan for the Four Mile HMA and when you will have the opportunity to comment.