Issuance of Wild Horse and Burro Gather Decisions
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20240–0036
March 15, 2019
In Reply Refer To:
4720 (260) P
EMS TRANSMISSION 03/15/2019
Permanent Instruction Memorandum No. 2019-004
To: All Field Office Officials (except Alaska)
From: Assistant Director, Resources and Planning
Subject: Issuance of Wild Horse and Burro Gather Decisions
Program Areas: Wild Horse and Burro (WHB) Program and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Purpose: This Instruction Memorandum (IM) establishes policy and guidance for the issuance of WHB gather decisions and NEPA compliance.
Administrative or Mission Related: Mission.
Policy/Action: When feasible, and except in the case of emergencies, it is the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) policy to:
- Provide the public 30 days to review and comment on an Environmental Assessment (EA) for conducting WHB gathers on the public lands.
- Strive to issue the authorized officer’s (AO’s) signed Decision Record (DR) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) a minimum of 14 days prior to the proposed start date of the gather, with a multi-gather, multi-year effective life to maximize management flexibility.
- Issue all removal decisions effective upon issuance (or a date established in the DR) for situations where the removal is required by applicable law or to preserve or maintain a thriving natural ecological balance and allow for multiple-uses of the public lands.
- Environmental Assessment
The EA should analyze all available gather methods (i.e., helicopter gather, bait or water trapping, etc.) and present multiple management alternatives, including but not limited to: fertility control vaccine treatments; spay and neuter procedures; removal of excess animals only; release or relocation of selected animals; and any other action integral to achieving and maintaining the appropriate management level (AML). Because a one-time gather and removal operation can be inadequate to achieve or sustain the AML, the BLM should consider evaluating the effects of multiple gathers and other population control actions over a multi-year period.For example, if the BLM determines that a one-time gather operation would result in the BLM removing an insufficient number of excess wild horses or burros to achieve and maintain the AML, the BLM should consider preparing a NEPA document that evaluates gathering and removing animals through a phased approach or over a multi-year period. Similarly, the BLM should consider taking a phased or multi-year approach to the application of fertility controls that must be administered repeatedly to be effective.
When an emergency situation exists and logistical considerations allow, the BLM should consider preparing a focused EA or utilizing a categorical exclusion (CX).
- Public Review and Comment
- The AO should make a gather EA available for public comment and review for 30 days, except when an emergency situation or other relevant management considerations exist.
- The AO should consider substantive comments and include a summary of how the comments were addressed in the final NEPA document (see H-1790-1, National Environmental Policy Handbook - Chapter 6.9 for additional information about responding to substantive comments).
- Decision Issuance
- Unless an emergency situation or other relevant management considerations exist, gather decisions should be issued at least 14 days prior to the proposed gather start date.
- This IM supersedes IM 2010-130, Wild Horse and Burro Gather Decisions, and amends Chapter 7 of the 4700-1, Wild Horse and Burro Management Handbook, which directed that WHB gather decisions be issued 31 to 76 days prior to initiation of gather activities. The intent of the 31-76 day lead time was to allow opponents of the gather decision to pursue an administrative challenge before going to Federal Court. However, opponents often go directly to federal court the day before or during a gather seeking a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) or Preliminary Injunction (PI). Thus, the 31-76 day lead time did not achieve the intended purpose and furthermore, impeded management capabilities by reducing decision-making flexibility (i.e., by constraining the BLM’s ability to respond to changing national gather priorities and unforeseen scheduling and funding limitations as well as compressing gather implementation windows).
- In accordance with 43 CFR 4770.3(c), the AO should issue removal decisions effective upon issuance (or a date established in the DR) for situations where the removal is required by applicable law or to preserve or maintain a thriving natural ecological balance and multiple-use relationship.
- The BLM should issue decisions authorizing gathers, removals, or population control actions through a phased approach or over a multi-year period when it determines that such an approach would help it achieve its management objectives. This approach would provide the BLM sufficient time to achieve management objectives. It would also enhance agency flexibility by allowing the BLM to adapt to unforeseen circumstances (such as, changes in national priorities, limited funding and holding space, reduced gather numbers, hard-to-catch or trap-shy animals, and emergency gather needs that impact gather schedules). If the BLM issues a multi-year or open-ended decision to gather and manage WHBs on the public lands, then no further decision is required to continue implementing the action unless the BLM determines that a change in conditions or objectives requires a new NEPA analysis and decision.
- Decisions that do not authorize the removal of WHBs (e.g., Herd Management Area Plans, remote delivery (darting) of fertility control) are typically governed by the administrative time frames provided in 43 CFR 4.21.
Background: The public is concerned about WHB gathers in the West. Providing a 30-day review and comment period on gather EAs and issuing WHB gather decisions at least 14 days prior to the planned gather start date, whenever practical and feasible to do so, ensures the public has an opportunity to meaningfully participate in WHB management decisions and provides the BLM with maximum flexibility for responding to on-range management needs.
Manual/Handbook Sections Affected: This IM amends Chapter 7 of the 4700-1, Wild Horse and Burro Management Handbook and Manual 4720.36, which directed that gather decisions shall be issued 31 to 76 days prior to initiation of gather activities.
Instruction Memorandums Affected: This IM supersedes IM 2010-130, Wild Horse and Burro Gather Decisions.
Contact: Please direct questions to the On-Range Branch Chief at 775-861-6611.
Signed by: Authenticated by:
Steve Tryon Robert M. Williams
Acting, Assistant Director Division of Business Resources,WO-850
Resources and Planning
 This IM is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or equity by a party against the United States, its departments, agencies, instrumentalities or entities, its officers or employees, or any other person.