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March 6, 2009
In Reply Refer To:
4700 (260) P
Instruction Memorandum No. 2009-085
Expires: 09/30/2010
To:             All Field Officials (except Alaska & Eastern States)
From:         Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning
Subject:     Managing Gathers Resulting from  Escalating Problems and Emergency Situations
Program Area: Wild Horse and Burro Program
Purpose: This Instruction Memorandum (IM) provides guidance, policy and procedure to identify, prioritize, and mitigate potential and actual emergencies involving wild horse and burro (WH&B) gathers.
Policy/Action:  Management of Gathers Resulting from Escalating Problems and Emergency situations
Land health and animal health are the top resource priorities in the WH&B Program. Due to fire, drought and other conditions, unplanned gathers are necessary every year and result in the re-direction of limited resources to critical areas.  These deviations from planned work complicate the national effort to achieve and maintain appropriate management level (AML). Situations that may require adjustments in the national gather schedule are identified as: (1) Escalating Problems and (2) Emergencies.
      1.   Escalating Problems
Escalating problems are defined as deteriorating conditions resulting in a declining availability of forage/water that will negatively affect animal condition and land health. Causal factors are normally drought and/or animal numbers in excess of AML. These situations are normally detectable four to six months or longer in advance of a situation becoming critical. Adjustments in WH&B numbers due to escalating problems will be managed within existing state removal targets. Gathers within a state are to be prioritized according to rangeland conditions/monitoring data, water availability, animal condition, and other unique resource needs.
Action to gather should be initiated before animal and land health become emergencies. Removals should achieve the low end of the AML range, unless an assessment of rangeland conditions/monitoring data through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process determines that more animals need to be removed to protect land health, wildlife habitat and the health of horses and burros remaining on the public land.
Court ordered gathers and removals of nuisance animals and/or those that stray outside of herd management areas (HMAs) are also to be managed within individual state gather targets.
The following process will be used when state gather targets are inadequate to meet escalating problems gather needs, and individual State Offices (SO) have followed the policy of prioritization of gather/removals.  
  1. The SOs should provide early notification (4-6 month minimum) to the National Program Office (NPO) of inadequate removal targets and funding shortages. The Washington Office (WO) will work with the affected state to attempt resolution of the problem.
  2. The NPO field visits for verification/support of SO determinations may be conducted if interstate adjustments in gather targets are necessary.
  3. Interstate adjustments in allocated gather targets will require WH&B Steering Committee review.
  4. Removals will be structured to mitigate the existing problem.
  5. NEPA review and gather plans are required.  
Factors that will be considered in determining adjustments in gather targets are:
  1. Land and/or animal health.
  2. Effective use of the prioritization process.
  3. Actions taken to mitigate or alleviate the impacts. 
  4. Appropriate actions taken to adjust livestock use when livestock contribute to unacceptable rangeland impacts and the impacts are not solely related to excess numbers of WH&Bs.
  5. Consultation with the state wildlife agency has occurred. 

The key goal of this process set forth for “Escalating Problems” is early detection and the ability to manage within individual state gather priorities on a “most critical first” basis so the situations do not become “Emergency situations.” 

            2. Emergency Situations 

“Emergency situations” are defined as a situation that develops unexpectedly and threatens the immediate health and welfare of a WH&B population, its habitat, wildlife habitat, and range resources and health.  Examples of emergencies include disease or fire, insect infestation, or other events of a catastrophic and unanticipated nature that affect forage and water availability for WH&Bs.
When an emergency is identified, the following steps will be taken in priority order: 
  1. State lead notifies the NPO.
  2. The NPO will work with the affected state to mitigate the emergency and schedule the gather.
  3. If possible intrastate adjustments in gather priorities will be made to accomplish the gather within the State’s removal target.
  4. This memo does not require field managers to adjust livestock grazing. It does however, require that livestock use be considered before emergency removal of WH&B can be approved. If the proposal is to not adjust livestock use, a justification must be provided. Examples would be the WH&B emergency is in a localized area not used by livestock, or the timeframe is outside the livestock season of use, or the emergency is not related to lack of forage.
  5. If the required adjustment in numbers results in a reduction of a population below the low point of AML, a rationale must be included with the gather request.
  6. Some emergency actions are excluded from NEPA requirements (H-1790-1 I-B2), but require consultation with the Council on Environmental Quality . If timeframes permit, NEPA and gather plans are required prior to animal removal. It is standard procedure for removal decisions to be issued “Effective Upon Issuance.” If immediate action is required, emergency actions should be documented and a report prepared after resolution of the problem. Public notification may be in the form of press releases as soon as feasible.  
If fiscal resources are inadequate to manage the emergency situations at the state level and an adjustment in national priorities is required, the NPO will immediately initiate a field review. Factors to be considered for a gather approval are as follows: 
  1. The nature and extent of the problem. 
  2. Land health and animal health.
  3. Appropriate actions taken concerning livestock use (described above).
  4. Actions taken to mitigate or alleviate the impacts.
  5. WH&B Steering Committee review will be necessary if an adjustment in interstate gather targets is required.  
The key concept is that “Emergencies” occur suddenly, unexpectedly and require immediate action.  An emergency poses an imminent threat to the health and survival of a population of WH&Bs and/or their habitat.  
Time frame: Effective immediately.    
Budget Impact:   Management of Escalating Problem and anticipation of Emergency situations involves monitoring, data interpretation, report preparation and prioritization of work loads that are not unusual to the program and will not result in additional costs. When these gathers are managed routinely as part of the annual program, costs should not increase significantly.
If drought, fire or other emergency situations are so severe that reprioritizing scheduled gathers will not suffice, the budget could be seriously impacted.
Background: Escalating Problems and Emergency situations frequently are a necessary part of the WH&B Program due to limited financial resources available for gathers and the care of animals after removal from the public land.   The program has enough history to enable each state to predict their gather needs relatively accurately. These fiscal needs should be planned and built into each budget request. Based on past experience the NPO can project “on the average” emergency removal numbers on a national basis and plan accordingly. This IM is a reissuance of previous policy.
Manual/Handbook Sections Affected: None.
Coordination: This policy was coordinated with State Offices, Field Offices, the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, the Division of Rangeland Management (WO220), the Division of Fish, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (WO230) and the Solicitor’s Office.
Contact:  The primary contact person is Lili Thomas, Wild Horse and Burro Specialist, WH&B National Program Office, at (775) 861-6457.
Signed by:                                                                   Authenticated by:
Edwin L. Roberson                                                      Robert M. Williams
Assistant Director                                                       Division of IRM Governance,WO-560
Renewable Resources and Planning

Last updated: 10-20-2009