Debbie Coffey                 Copyright 2012 All Rights Reserved.

(You might question the BLM’s project title after reading below. There’s nothing resilient or healthy about it. And not to malign BLM employees at local Field Offices – public lands planning comes from the President, Congress, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and BLM Director Bob Abbey.)


Department of Interior
Bureau of Land Management
Carson City District
Stillwater Field Office
5665 Morgan Mill Road
Carson City, Nevada 89701

BLM’s statements in the Environmental Assessment (EA) are italicized, and author’s comments are not italicized.

“The project area encompasses approximately 230,000 acres, which includes …136,400 acres of the Desatoya Herd Management Area (HMA) (84% of the HMA).”

The Desatoya HMA is about 161,000 acres, and the BLM is only leaving 127-180 wild horses on the HMA that is primarily for their use. That is only one horse every
1,267.7 acres – one horse every 894.4 acres.

If there is not enough water or forage for the wild horses, this can only be from misappropriation of land uses allowed and facilitated by the BLM, which is mismanagement. When did the BLM last monitor the HMA for carrying capacity? Please send me documents related to any recent monitoring.

Within the project area, up to approximately 32,705 acres of ground disturbing treatments are proposed over a ten year period including…herbicide treatment… Page 83 – In fact, 2,4-D has limited residual activity (2 weeks); therefore any incidental contamination risk to non-target plants would likely be negligible.”

When considering plants, animals, water and humans, note that:

The EPA says that 2,4-D is seventh largest source of dioxin in the U.S.
Dioxin DCDD that contaminates 2,4-D herbicide is not tested, measured or monitored by the EPA, or even regulated. A Canadian research paper states that dioxin DCDD may have large public health implications due to its prevalence in our food and environment.

DCDD is one of the hundreds of kinds of dioxin – (TCDD is the worst, but DCDD may be equi-potent):
NOTE: “2,4-D is contaminated with an unmonitored form of dioxin,
2,7-dichlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (2,7-DCDD)… There is very little research on this form of dioxin, but in 1986 2,7-DCDD was found to be “equipotent” to the very toxic 2,3,7,8-TCDD in a test of immunosuppression. Given the wide use of herbicides that are contaminated with 2,7-DCDD there may be large public health implications of this contamination of our food and environment.”

I am requesting that you read the information on the link above, since this has implications for human health, and that the BLM prepare an EIS.

The Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) defined the goal for managing wild horse (or burro) populations in a thriving natural ecological balance as follows: ―As the court stated in Dahl v. Clark, supra at 594, the ‗benchmark test‘ for determining the suitable number of wild horses on the public range is ‗thriving ecological balance.‘ In the words of the conference committee which adopted this standard: ‗The goal of WH&B management ***should be to maintain a thriving ecological balance between WH&B populations, wildlife, livestock and vegetation, and to protect the range from the deterioration associated with overpopulation of wild horses and burros.‘ ‖ (Animal Protection Institute of America v. Nevada BLM, 109 IBLA 115, 1989).

The BLM is in violation of FLPMA because it is giving FONSIs to uses that do much damage to the range, use massive amounts of water, and carry risk, (but bring in money for royalties, etc.), while wildly exaggerating any “damage” done by wild horses.

The BLM will also be in violation of Dahl v. Clark (1.2) to determine the suitable number of wild horses on the public range, which is thriving ecological balance, and (1.3) the secondary purpose of the proposed action, which is to manage the HMA for a thriving natural ecological balance, because the BLM cannot justify a “thriving ecological balance” if BLM doesn’t prepare an EIS. As it is, with this EA, the BLM will be applying 2,4D to the land and has not done risk management considering combined sources of 2,4D in the area or cumulative effects to area water and drinking water.

Also regarding a “thriving ecological balance,” it seems that there are many geothermal leases in the Edwards Valley, and geothermal extraction can use hydraulic fracturing (fracking)  and the chemicals being injected into the ground aren’t publicly known and there is also risk of water contamination.

When your office prepares an EIS, please notify the public if genetically engineered (GE) seeds will be used in the “reseeding” project. If so, which seeds will be genetically engineered and what could the impact be to human health? (For example, cows that will eventually end up in the food chain, may be grazing on genetically engineered seeds.) What will the impact of genetically engineered seeds be on the wild horses ingesting GE grass on the range? In your EIS, please provide studies to prove the safety regarding this to animals and humans.

1.2 “Over the next ten years, the BLM intends to continually capture and treat mares as needed and remove excess wild horses, when necessary to maintain the wild horse population within the AML range .”

Will the BLM be doing an EA for each planned gather? If not, what is the precedent for removing wild horses from their HMA without an EA, when there is not an emergency? This EA seems to be just a “blank check” to remove wild horses continually over a 10 year period, without monitoring the range or doing an EA each year for this purpose.

2.1 The Proposed Action
General — The proposed action has been developed in collaboration and partnership with the Nevada Division of Wildlife (NDOW), the Carson City and Battle Mountain District Offices, the University of Nevada Reno, the US Department of Agriculture (ARS & NRCS), Great Basin Bird Observatory, U.S. Geological Survey, and Smith Creek Ranch LLC.

WHAT ABOUT input from the PUBLIC, whose tax dollars pay for this (and your salaries)? Is this EA the first input opportunity the public has had? Was any scoping done? Please send me an unredacted copy of all of the public scoping comments.

…ranch would close the gate on the corral/trap either remotely or a mechanical release method may be used such as a trip wire. If a mechanical release method which is activated by the horses is employed the trap would be inspected daily whenever there is a possibility of the gate being closed.

The trap will ONLY be inspected once a day? What if a horse is injured? Will it be left to suffer for 24 hours or so? Since the trap is a remote location, shouldn’t a camera be on the gate in case there is a problem or injury to a horse? The BLM should supply cameras and tv monitors, like the ones BLM uses at Palomino Valley or Litchfield.

“Personnel from Smith Creek Ranch would follow all of the procedures outlined in Appendix D, Standard Operating Procedures for Wild Horse (or Burro) Gathers.
Gathered horses that are identified for removal would be taken to the Indian Lakes holding facility in Fallon, NV”

Indian Lakes Road is no longer going to be an intake facility, per John Neill, Indian Lakes Road COR, stated during an April 2012 public tour at the Indian Lakes Road STH facility. (Apparently, this does not represent policy and could change.)

“…the Palomino Valley Corrals near Sparks NV. The animals would be transported either by BLM personnel, Smith Creak Ranch personnel or a private contractor and subject to all the stipulations in Appendix D. Horses that would be An Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) or other veterinarian may be on-site”

A Veterinarian “may” be on site? A VETERINARIAN SHOULD BE REQUIRED TO BE ON SITE, THE ENTIRE TIME, FOR ALL GATHER ACTIVITIES, including loading and unloading of horses. Also, what experience do Smith Creek Ranch personnel have handling wild horses? What are the requirements? If there are no requirements, I will request a detailed description of the training BLM will give Smith Creek Ranch personnel.

“during the gather activities, as needed, to examine animals and make recommendations to the BLM for care and treatment… a freeze mark applied by either BLM personnel, Smith Creek Ranch personnel or a private contractor…”

2.4 Designate the Desatoya HMA as a “Wild Horse and Burro Range
Designate the Desatoya HMA as a ―Wild Horse and Burro Ranges‖. This action under 43 CFR 4710.3-2 would require the amendment of the CRMP, which is outside the scope of this EA. Only the BLM Director or Assistant Director (as per BLM Manual 1203: Delegation of Authority), may establish a Wild Horse and Burro Range after a full assessment of the impact on other resources through the land-use planning process.

Bob Abbey should do this, and I am asking Teresa Knutson to request that he do this.

p. 37 “While impacts to water from horses are different than cattle due to behavior (horses tend to not linger at a source and drink in the morning and at night), decreased cover and diversity of grasses and shrubs as well as decreased mammal burrow density have been documented from wild horses at water sources (Beever and Brussard 2000, Ganskopp and Vavra 1986).”

What about all of the other “uses” taking water from the aquifer, since the BLM doesn’t require 1’ and 5’ water drawdown maps, and a stream can dry up with a 1’ water drawdown? I doubt if the studies cited above considered this important aspect in their report or determination. What about the water used by all the geothermal leases in the area, which may use water from the same aquifer?

P. 38 “The herbicide proposed to be used in the Cold Springs fuel break is imazapic, and 2,4-D would be used for rabbitbrush and decadent sagebrush control. The environmental risks of these herbicides were analyzed in the Vegetation Treatments Using Herbicides on BLM lands in 17 Western States Programmatic EIS (2007). The application scenarios for the risk categories for terrestrial animals were direct spray, off-site drift (wind erosion), indirect contact with foliage after direct spray, ingestion of contaminated vegetation or prey, and runoff, which includes percolation to the root zone, at typical and maximum application rates. The Proposed Action would not exceed the maximum application rates.”

The BLM is only considering the “proposed action” alone, and is not considering or factoring in cumulative use in the area. The BLM needs to do an aggregate risk assessment considering exposures to humans, animals, water, drinking water, plants from COMBINED SOURCES in the area. BLM should do Drinking Water Level of Concern (DWLOC) testing and use the Forward Calculation Approach to include in an EIS (which I am now formally requesting, in writing, in this public comment).

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2,4D,

Exposure to 2,4-D has been reported to result in blood, liver, and kidney toxicity (1, 2, 4). Chronic oral exposure in experimental animals have resulted in adverse effects on the eye, thyroid, kidney, adrenals, and ovaries/testes (1). Experimental animal studies have demonstrated delayed neurobehavioral development and changes in neurotransmitter concentrations in offspring exposed during pregnancy or lactation (5-9).

Low concentrations of 2,4-D have been found in groundwater in some states. Agricultural run-off containing 2,4-D may contaminate groundwater in some areas.

Experimental animal studies of chronic oral exposure have reported adverse effects on the eye, thyroid, kidney, adrenals, adrenals, and ovaries/testes (1). In addition, some experimental animal studies have reported teratogenic effects (birth defects) at high doses, including increased fetal death, urinary tract malformation, and extra ribs (15, 16). When adult female experimental animals were exposed to 2,4-D during their pregnancy and lactation periods, their exposed offspring exhibited neurological effects, including delayed neurobehavioral development (5) and changes in several neurotransmitter levels or binding activities (6-9, 17) and ganglioside levels (18, 19) in the brain. Delayed neurobehavioral development was manifested as delays in acquisition of certain motor skills such as the righting reflex (5).
If the EPA reports this, how can this BLM EA, without considering cumulative uses in the area, state that risks will be “negligible?” (see below)

“The risk assessment concluded that in general, imazapic, even at high doses, does not adversely affect terrestrial animals, including invertebrates, as it is rapidly metabolized in urine and feces and does not bioaccumulate in animal tissue. The document did state that during pregnancy mammals may be more at risk and long-term exposure had negative effects on birds. However, application of imazapic would occur in the fall/winter, which is outside of the gestation period for most animals that may use the project area; therefore these risks would likely be negligible (BLM 2007b, BLM 2007c).”

“2,4-D can present risk to some wildlife species due to direct spray, consumption of the recently sprayed vegetation, and consumption of contaminated insects.”

Please prepare an EIS.