After NBC News wrote about the Bureau of Land Management featuring a photo of a coal bed at the top of their website, the BLM changed it… to now feature this photo of an oil & gas pipeline.

by Debbie Coffey, V.P. & Dir. of Wild Horse Affairs, Wild Horse Freedom Federation All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2017

The Bureau of Land Management is scrubbing most of its links off of the internet, and in doing so, erasing much of its history from public view.

Many of the blm.gov links that are still remaining on the internet at this point say “page not found,” or the links are no longer cached.

The BLM also suddenly removed state and district websites. Instead, you will now find “landing pages” that direct you to only one main Bureau of Land Management website. (You can look at the new BLM website HERE.)

I called a BLM Public Affairs Specialist to ask some questions about the defunct websites and links. This person said in the past there were about 90,000 pages (and then a bit later stated that it could possibly be only about 60,000 pages) of BLM content on the internet, but that all of these pages couldn’t be maintained or updated, and weren’t centralized. This person said the BLM’s prior content management system was outdated.

Most importantly, this person also said there were now standards to reduce the amount (of pages/content).

Who made the decision to even have a standard to reduce content available to the public on the internet? During this website transition, who is making the decisions, and on what basis, of what data to migrate, or not to migrate, to the new BLM website? These decisions cherry pick what information will be available to the public in the future.

Make no mistake, this “reducing the amount” of content on the internet is erasing many of this agency’s past actions, activities, and government documentation. Many of these links had historical value. For example, the BLM activities of BLM employees Sally Spencer and Lili Thomas over the years are now gone. These types of links on the internet didn’t need to be “maintained” or “updated.” They were historical in nature.

In the past, in doing a google search for Sally Spencer (a longtime BLM employee, and the Marketing Specialist famous for selling so many wild horses and burros to kill buyer Tom Davis), she was included on many, many BLM government links. I went to the BLM’s new website and searched “Sally Spencer,” and only 3 items appeared. When I searched “Lili Thomas” (another longtime BLM Wild Horse & Burro Program employee who oversaw the BLM’s Long Term Holding facilities for wild horses for many years), only 4 items appeared. And when I searched “John Neill” (a longtime Palomino Valley Center manager), all that came up was “No results found.”

These individuals are BLM personnel who have been central in management issues in the BLM’s Wild Horse & Burro Program, as evidenced by FOIA documentation garnered by the late Dr. Patricia Haight of The Conquistador Program.

Even when I searched the new BLM website for “Dean Bolstad” (the Division Chief of the Wild Horse & Burro Program) only 2 items appeared.

(Although, luckily, thanks to In Defense of Animals, you can still go online and see this youtube video of Lili Thomas saying “working with wild horses is not a pretty sight” at a public meeting.)

What I can’t understand is, if the new content management system is bigger and better, why couldn’t the new content management system have contained all of the old data along with new data? If this agency were truly transparent, they would add data, not reduce data, available to the public on the internet.

At first the Bureau of Land Management only removed the Directories for District offices and Field Offices, making it difficult, for example, to find out who was the Wild Horse & Burro Specialist, Hydrologist, Range Management Specialist or other personnel in any particular district or field office or to find an email address or telephone number for them. BLM personnel frequently transfer to other offices and states, so it was already hard enough to try to keep up with who was where. But now the public really doesn’t have a clue who is doing what or where.

You used to be able to go to the home pages of BLM state and district websites, and get a quick overview of not only roundup plans for wild horses & burros, but mining expansion plans, oil & gas lease sale plans, and other uses of our public lands in that area, all in one place.

Now, the BLM has divided these by topics or by “regions,” on their new website. Under the “region” of Nevada (we call them states here in the U.S.A.), there isn’t a box for wild horses & burros (only oil and gas leasing, greater sage grouse, Great Basin Landscape Conservation Cooperative, Information Access Center, Nevada Resource Advisory Councils & Federal Register Notices).

By scattering information all over this one “centralized” website, the BLM has made it much harder for the public to put together the pieces of information for a clear picture about the multiple uses of our public lands in any one area.

The Program Data page for the Wild Horse & Burro Program is HERE. When I clicked on the box for Historical Program Data and Public Lands Statistics, I noticed something was missing that used to be available to the public. It was the column on Adoptions by Locations & Date. Information from the years 2009-2015 were previously available.

The biggest reason this data was important is because it let the public know the dates of adoption events (including internet adoptions), the locations of the events, the number of the wild horses and burros offered for adoption (until Fiscal Year 2014) and the number of wild horses and burros that were actually adopted at each event.

The BLM likely stopped reporting the number of horses & burros offered at adoption events in Fiscal Year 2014 because it didn’t want the public to know how many horses & burros were racking up “strikes” by not being adopted. When a wild horse or burro isn’t adopted after 3 events and gets 3 “strikes” it can be sold without restriction (to slaughter), no matter how young it is. Even this seemingly small reduction of data indicated a lack of transparency by this agency.

Another reason this data is important to the public is because it let the public see what areas of the country adopt the most (and the least) wild horses & burros.

While the new BLM website contains a lot of information, it seems we have lost much more information that was once available on the internet, but was not migrated to the new BLM website. For example, the BLM News Release on its promised investigation into the deaths of wild horses at the Scott City feedlot is on the internet, but as of today, is not one of the 63 News Releases available to the public on the BLM’s new website.

We will never know how much, or what, the BLM has removed from the internet. The BLM’s scrubbing of their trail on the internet has not only erased part of the history of this government agency, it is censorship, and it is the equivalent of a modern day book burning.

SEE EXAMPLES REFERENCED ABOVE HERE.

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