Public Lands, Public Horses

Sage Grouse and Wild Horses



As a wild horse advocate it is vital that you understand the battle in the West over the Sage Grouse. Many of you see it in a newsfeed but do not pay much attention. The debates over the Greater Sage Grouse (GrSG), and sub species, are at the core of the largest sweeping, environmental debates on western public land in decades. 

The Greater Sage Grouse, or “prairie chicken,” has caused the greatest “war” in public land management since the “war” between the free-grazers and land owners that created the need for the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934. From BLM website: “The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 (43 USC 315), signed by President Roosevelt, was intended to “stop injury to the public grazing lands [excluding Alaska] by preventing overgrazing and soil deterioration; to provide for their orderly use, improvement, and development; [and] to stabilize the livestock industry dependent upon the public range” (USDI 1988). This Act was pre-empted by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA).” 

Within discussions surrounding the sage grouse we see attacks on environmentalists, endangered species, public participation is omitted as massive land and power grabs take place.

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In a nutshell

In 2014 Wild Horse Education began to participate in meetings surrounding United States Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) proposed listing of the Greater Sage Grouse onto the endangered species list. 

A huge push back from industry (livestock and mining) and hunting communities mixed and mingled because a listing could bring both to a screeching halt. If the GRSG was listed, everything stops and slowly industry would be allowed to resume; protect the bird and habitat first and then figure out how to exploit it.

Instead we began a massive overhaul of land management under what was dubbed "Sage Grouse 2.0," or Planning 2.0. "2.0" was the gateway to allowing industry to continue as we slowly began to protect habitat loss (the greatest threat to the GSG). 2.0 essentially stopped the listing.

However industry found even the paltry restrictions under 2.0 (and underlying agreements) intolerable. It should be noted that "2.0" also found itself at the heart of the "states rights movement." Even though industry and local governments were given priority in creation of this plan, with environmental interests stuck in the cheap seats, there was intense resentment of any restrictions the "feds might place on the land." (sound familiar?) We saw a lot of screaming from interests already prioritized in the system under the guise of "local voices" and "little guys." It was a great public relations move but it could not be further from the truth. 

Under this current administration (Trump) planning 2.0 was one of the first things, literally within the first 48 hours, thrown in the trash heap. In addition massive cuts to regulations that protect the environment and your voice began. 

For wild horses 2.0 simply inserted an old broken paradigm. However WHE had built a long record of engagement and protest. The same frame to litigation the minimization of both the horse and our voice remained in place under 2.0. The "same old game" had a new favorite word "mitigation."