Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board Meeting Sept 10, 2013 Arlington, VA

10 Sep

NOTE TO MY READERS:
Very sorry folks, but I missed the very beginning of the presentations partially because I thought it started at 9:00 am EST and partially because the batteries in my mouse died. Since I missed a great deal of the the morning presentations, please take the time and make some comments below for the rest of us.

I thought it would be a good idea to capture the text for a couple of reasons. First, so that those who did not attend in person or watch the live-stream, would know what was said. Secondly to help those that did attend in person or watch the live stream to be able to refresh their memories and be able discuss what was presented at the meeting.

Yesterday’s post was exceedingly long so today I decided to break up the day’s proceedings at the breaks. There were four sessions today: two in the morning and two in the afternoon.  The last session was reserved for attendees to make their comments and address the Advisory Board about their concerns.

Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board Meeting Sept 10, 2013

up to the first morning break

This text is as it came from the captioning feature on the live-stream; no edits, spell checks or grammar was corrected — no editing except I broke the text into smaller paragraphs to make it more readable.  

…and science can be used to determine whether or not that has a negative effect or not. But certainly that’s a valid hypothesis. 

>> Boyd, can I — 

>> DR. BOYD SPRATLING: Can I ask a few questions? 

>> TIM HARVEY: I didn’t know if you were going to go somewhere else. I just wanted to use John’s comment as a segue, that’s all. I’ll be as brief as I can possibly be, which isn’t always easy. 
(Laughter) 

I just wanted to use as a segue for a quick comment is people keep referring back to over AML, over AML. Over AML. And what you guys have pointed out which I’m going to reiterate and what John just brought up, AML, by what you guys have found, is not based on good science. What we’re using as AML now. And the differentiation that you pointed out how horses utilize land isn’t being looked at in establishing AML. So what John just brought up is what I said before and I support John’s questions here 100%, that the top priority here that you guys have brought to the table is that AML needs to be re-evaluated, looked at. They need to consider the differences in how horses are utilizing this land and that — and then AML needs to be reviewed on every single HMA and re-established using good science that you guys are helping bring to the table. So that’s pretty much — 

>> DR. BOYD SPRATLING: Thank you, Tim. I have a couple questions, it seems like a lot of this is based on the handbook, the staff, for the horse specialist may not be complete or written as well as it could be to reflect perhaps what some of the procedure are within the district and we’re talking about — there is little science. I mean, looking at that handbook, perhaps there’s little science going into that process of setting AML. And maybe I’m bouncing a little bit off what Callie asked is that the other processes, the range people and other people that are out there doing the monitoring on these allotments perhaps are putting more science in to that process than is being reflected in the handbook. And at district level, those offices are all sitting next door to one another. And I’m wondering if perhaps the handbook doesn’t reflect some of the process that goes on within that district and their staff. Could that be a case? 
 
>> LYNN HUNTSINGER: I think the handbook is a set of recommendations that districts should be using with an effort to make processes more consistent. But I think — and Mike may address this as well — it’s just not specific enough to assure that consistency. 
 
>> DR. BOYD SPRATLING: The handbook itself? 

>> LYNN HUNTSINGER: Yeah. 

>> DR. BOYD SPRATLING: Okay. . 

>> There’s a huge emphasis on land health on how management objectives should be set but there’s not much in the handbook about assessing land health. If there was more specificity about how you do that in the handbook, that would be helpful. So it’s not just how much forage there is but what are the impacts of the animals on the landscape. And the thriving ecological balance if you want to think of that, instead of land health. But there should be some more specificity about the methodology for that so that you know, different areas within the BLM are on the same page. 

>> DR. BOYD SPRATLING: Okay, you talked a lot about alternative stable states and being theory and cutting edge that piques a little question in my mind. Is there really a good science to back up that theory? Because you made quite a point that it’s theoretical now but at cutting edge. So do you feel comfortable from your position that there’s good science to back up that model? 

>> MIKE COUGHENOUR: Yes, I do. It’s an emerging area but it’s been around for quite a while. That theory has been in existence for quite some time now actually. It’s just a difficult thing to study scientifically. There’s still ate lot of work to be done — but it’s accepted. 

>> DR. BOYD SPRATLING: I’m sorry, go ahead. 

>> LYNN HUNTSINGER: I wanted to add that as opposed to a lot of other ways of looking at vegetation change, it’s very much a data driven modeling process, unfortunately we don’t have the data in a lot of cases you build your hypothesis about how these things work based on whatever, you know. and then as information accumulates, you adjust and refine the model. So it fits really well with a system where you’re learning through experiments Asian and observation as you go. Experimentation and observation as you go. 

>> DR. BOYD SPRATLING: You’re setting hypothesis, you’re instituting an action, you monitor that and see if it’s working for you. I think in medicine or anything else those are very good principles. So — but it fosters flexibility, also. For a number of things that BLM is doing on public lands and dealing with natural resources. So I — I’m happy to hear that you’re promoting that particular situation. I have a few questions about resilience. And you know, I’m kind of the — have learned maybe some of the older methods when an area or a site, ecological site crosses a threshold into a different state, that you know, that’s what the threshold meant that they — it probably won’t return. Now I’m hearing that — is it just a different way of looking at it or now we’re talking about perhaps crossing back into the previous state, across that threshold. I’m a little bit confused by that. 

>> The resilience comes into the strength or the level to which a system is going to be within a certain state and resist perturbations. So, if you think of how much perturbation it requires to push a system over the threshold, that involves the concept of resilience. That will be more resistent to perturbations and more likely to stay in a certain state and be able to push into a threshold. 

>> You’re not saying they’re more likely to come back than previously you’re just saying being perturbed more there’s resistance to 0 crossing that threshold. Not necessarily coming back. 

>> Yes. 

>> Okay, excuse me. 

>> A little bit of drought and her herbivory. I have to be a a little bit on track with what Callie said here on the amount herbivory followed by drought or stress or that system is kind of a hand in hand thing as opposed to one versus the other. Is that correct? If you have arcments that have been grazed down — arrangements that have been grazed down by whatever species, then you have drought following that, those plants going into that drought in a debilitative state. Is that correct? We’ll have more chance of being able to — those are the ones that animals are continually going after, stress harder and have a greater chance of being pushed out in a drought situation. 

>> MIKE COUGHENOUR: They should be considered hand in hand as part of an interacting system. The climate affects the response to herbivory and herbivory also affects the response to climate. So you have to consider both at the same time definitely. 

>> DR. BOYD SPRATLING: Callie is getting itchy next to me here so go ahead and ask your question. 

>> CALLIE HENDRICKSON: Thank you. Is there a way to tell the amount of energy in a root system, let’s say. So can we tell when they’re getting to a point they’re not going to be able to come back? Or do be just have to wait until the plan — we just have to wait until the plant is gone to know that it’s dead. 

>> Too far? 

>> MIKE COUGHENOUR: Well you can measure below ground biomass, plant cover, basilar cover. You can measure the carbohydrates content and then the nutrient content of the below ground structures. Yes, there’s ways to get at th

>> CALLIE HENDRICKSON: Okay. 

>> LYNN HUNTSINGER: What it means is less clear. 

>> DR. BOYD SPRATLING: Ed, do you have . 

>> Ed ROBERSON: I’m happy to hear you talk about resilience, the managers I’ve met that have done that have stayed in business. And healthy rangelands. If we’re talking about putting things in the handbook, to manage for rangeland health based on the concept of REI resilience, we all walk around and look at land, are there things you would see or metrics you would suggest given the fact that there’s limited time and limited money (Rick Danvir) that could be measured by eye and/or from the sky. But what are some cothings you’re looking at to tell you whether on those areas that are in an — a good state, a state that seems to meet the requirements of the animals there now, how can you tell whether that is tending towards resilience or whether it’s a risk? 

>> LYNN HUNTSINGER: Well, I can tell you one big thing that really affects resilience and that’s soil and condition of the soil and loss of the soil. When you lose soil, you lose vegetation resilience. So that occurs to me right off the bat. 

>> MIKE COUGHENOUR: I was going to say nutrient cycles, water cycling. Or functioning hydrologic processes. Those kinds of processes contribute to resilience. 

>> Rick: In other words, is water getting into the ground as opposed to running off the ground, that kind of thing. And you could pick some of that up — I mean, we both can see it walking around. Could you also pick some of that up fairly well from remotely? 

>> MIKE COUGHENOUR: In as much as you can sense bare ground and the dynamics of bare ground versus the vegetation cover. But I think that would have to be linked to some degree to on the ground verification. But using the two together, the remote sensing along with the ground based verification would be a big improvement, I think. 

>> Rick: One thing I think I’m hear with limited time and energy, bare ground is a pretty good initial metric we can use to tell us especially if we have trend information? You know, to to give you a clue whether we’re moving in a positive or towards a bad — in a bad direction or tending towards resilience. 

>> LYNN HUNTSINGER: Yeah, trend would be good. Because how bare ground has changed over time would be important. I have to fall back on the ecologist statement, it depends. And it depends on the ecosystem. 

>> Rick: That’s true. There’s going to be greater difference — quite a difference between southern Arizona and northern Great Plains. 

>> LYNN HUNTSINGER: Absolutely. 

>> Rick: So you have to look at a particular HMA or region long term under different precipitation conditions. 

>> LYNN HUNTSINGER: When you mentioned southwest, some people think that more spatial definition between plants is important and it’s one of the problems we’re having with fire and invasive species is they come in and fill up some of the bare ground. So it really is a matter of each — knowing each place and that’s why we need these models and — for specific . 

>> Rick: They were talking about species would be important or annuals versus perennials. 

>> LYNN HUNTSINGER: Absolutely. Species and climates and topography, all those things are a factor.

>> Rick: Last question. We talk a about allocating forage and forage budgets. But given the fact that we’re in unpredictable environments — and I’m just thinking about some of the range managers or ranchers that are still in business that I’ve run across — some of the more successful ones are not thinking just about do I have enough forage for this year for my cows, my elk, whatever. But what about next year? What if it doesn’t rain next year? Have I grown enough this year to carry me through next year. So talking about forage allocation, in your minds, would it be appropriate that — to consider maintaining, you know, adequate forage out there for the needs of wildlife and horses, which aren’t going to go anywhere? Over multiple years given unpredictable weather? 

>> MIKE COUGHENOUR: I think you should consider that variability in how much forage is available aif you’re managing for — and if you’re managing for good horse condition, good body condition in the horses over a multiple time — year time period, you either have to be prepared for the condition to go down in the bad years or you have to ensure that there’s some forage bank that they can draw upon in those dry years. It depends on your management objective. I mean if you think that that’s the way the system should be managed, you know, according to the management objectives for that piece of land, that’s what you should do. But others would argue that natural ecosystems are naturally variable and there will be years when animals are in poor condition and they’ll be hungry animals out there. 

And that’s just the way it works. Rick Dan virginia: I’m thinking about being a wildlife manager and quail and greater sage crass from being listed and I know there’s a relationship with herbaceous cover and you know, vital rates that you can measure on those animals. That’s part of what I’m throwing in there too is not just in terms of eating but some of the other users that are — you know that are out the

>> MIKE COUGHENOUR: Sure. But you also have to consider the natural variability of some of these habitats that you know, if it’s a quail that lives in a dry habitat, then it must have evolved certain adaptations to be able to live in such a dry habitat. 
So it depen(Laughter) 

>> Rick: I think that’s a good point. 

>> DR. BOYD SPRATLING: At this point. Julie has a question. Let’s wait. Go ahead and is your question. 

>> JULIE GLEASON: I have a quick one. It’s speculative and outside the scope but I’m hearing different things that the modeling technique has been tested in the past. It’s a good technique and I’m hearing we need to test for whether the horsees are over AML, there’s not enough data in the field. How long do you think it would take to it incorporate a new model? Do you think we need to do a year research and maybe incorporation in one year, two years, tomorrow, next week? Just speculative. 

>> I do want to make the point that there’s a linkage here between Bob’s work and that if we don’t know how many horses are out there, it makes it — I mean, that’s an important step in being able to evaluate whether we’re below or above AML (Lynn). 

>> MIKE COUGHENOUR: I think you should think in terms of the long-term. As far as, like, developing your modeling capability. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. On the other hand, models already do exist and they can be drawn upon as a starting point. But there’s always room for improvements, and model testing and refinement and the ability to readily use some of these more complex models over a wide range of areas is challenging. And it’s going to require some work to develop that capability. So I think something can be done in the next couple of years, but I think you have to look at the long-term to really get to where you want to be with that. 

>> I was going to wait until after break and say something if this is on. But for the board members and for Mike and Lynn, we don’t have to start from zero. Because the AIM strategy, which we’ve signed (Ed robber son) is something we’ve developed since I’ve been here in my job. The eke logics of that handbook, we just celebrated the interagency completion of that handbook for range sites and still needs to be worked on for forage sites but we have that. And these things will apply to all our programs and it will take us a while to get them implemented.

 We’ve worked within RCS to get the natural resource inventory system with some — with sites random sites across the landscape so that we can track changes in our — in the habitat over time. And those key components, which also are factors in the sage Crouse and which — I missed the last meeting because I was at a sage grouse meeting. So that data will be used to inform all the decisions we make as we move forward. The landscape level assessments that we’re doing regionally in the west, they’re regionally rapid assessments, those are to bring science to our decision making and they include predictive models that talk about fragmentations and the effects of climate change and those things are being rolled out by our state directors and by our field offices. We — we’re working with landscape conservation cooperatives in the west. Multi agency NGOs universities.

We’re working with the science infrastructure that has been established in the west. The — well across the nation, climate science centers at USGS established. We — while we don’t see ourselves as a — let’s say a research science organization, we have a lot of ologists and we have a lot of specialists whose academic credentials are significant and who bring that knowledge to the job every day. Brandon Besselmire, I worked with him extensively when I was in last screws cruiseis, Jeff Harek worked with him in Las Cruces. We’re trike to bring that science to the decision making. The land health standards tech notes and assessment guidance that we have applies to everybody. But — and at 10,000 person organization, when you’re field offices are struggling to meet their day-to-day workload, it’s hard for them to get that consistency and I think we — I’m only expressing facts as I see him to inform the board and I want to make sure that John and I — I mean, we’re going to talk a little bit about this tomorrow and work with you all.

I don’t want to filter the information you’re getting from others, but I also don’t want you to think that you know, we just came out of the dark ages to land management. We — you know, I did savory system in New Mexico. We looked at the effects of land grazing and how it might be applied. So I think there is a lot here. There’s a lot we’ve learned, there are a lot of recommendations we’re going to talk about tomorrow that we really need to carry forward and strengthen and there’s vulnerabilities and weaknesses that the NAS pointed out to us that we embrace and want to resolve. And I did want you to know that wear out there pushing remote sensing. We’re pushing GIS models and application and it just — it takes a while to get it through the organization. And so that’s — your question lifted me to that statement. I’m sorry. 

>> Well, I want to thank you. We found many good things going on. So I do agree. 

>> DR. BOYD SPRATLING: Okay. Jim. 

[male board member speaking]>> I want to stop this off. I think it illustrates the real need to get rid of the excess horses out there in the range land. Because when you have — when you’re over AML, all you’re going to do is decrease the racker of that land over carrying capacity of the land over time. So I think it’s imperative that BLM get on the ball, get the surplus horses off the range so you’ve still got vegetation level. I spent the last 10 years managing horse herd there on the Yakima reservation. And at this point in time, we have about 10 times the number of horses that we have carrying capacity for. There are places there where there is absolutely no vegetation left. Recovery in that situation. Our carrying capacity is decreased manifold because of that. I think it’s imperative for the BLM to take action to get these horses off the range so they can maintain a sustainable habitat. 

>> DR. BOYD SPRATLING: Thank you. 

>> Going back to the question of land that you say is you can’t be restoring it. Has any it thought been given to manually doing something about that? I realize that if, you know, if the land is totally devastated as we say beyond it. But, if it comes to a certain state, with some receding or that kind of thick, thing, you know, there’s been concern about water, well, the climate in those areas has not significantly changed in forage grew there to begin with. So, if there’s not some kind of way of rehabilitating that to that point because I know that you do there is reseeding done in areas where there’s been fire. They’ll fly over with seed to restore that. Is that something you’ve considered or is that a possibility? 

>> MIKE COUGHENOUR: Yeah. The idea of alternate stable space, that does not exclude the possibility of restoration. It’s just saying that it can be very difficult for restoration to be carried out. And it can be very expensive and maybe so expensive that it’s not even feasible to do it over large areas. It takes a lot of resources to do that. But we’re certainly not ruling out the possibility of restoration efforts. 

>> LYNN HUNTSINGER: And again, seedings can be extremely useful. When we’re saying climate, sometimes we’re talking about weather. Some years we’ll have a good rainfall and seeding always goes better in a good rainful year. So when seeding is done, those will affect the outcome as well. 

>> JUNE SEWING: By utilizing seed or whatever it is that is indicative to that climate to begin with, you know, like I say, the total over all climate hasn’t changed. There are some years when it’s drought and some years when it’s wet. But you know, the forage has survived. And just as an aside, when you say that it is expensive, this is not basically your question is just a statement. Which the organization that I represent is willing to participate in monetarily in some of those areas. We’ve done it in the past where we have purchased the seed to do that kind of thing. So you know, for BLM to listen to that is, you know, would be helpful, I would think. Anyway, that was my. 

>> DR. BOYD SPRATLING: I think my type keeper standing against the wall. Do we need to do something different. How do you want to handle the break? Club club come back at — well, 25 minutes and/or the real thing is coming back at 10 after the hour. 

>> DR. BOYD SPRATLING: TNEB. And I’d like to thank Dr. Huntsinger and Dr. Cough in our for their time. We appreciate them coming.. 

— 
(A break was

single horse

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3 Responses to “Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board Meeting Sept 10, 2013 Arlington, VA”

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