BLM proposes stakeholder, general population discussions for wild horse management
After the National Academy of Science issued a report on wild horses and managing the species, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a proposal to conduct surveys and discussions to gather feedback from both stakeholders and the general public on how to proceed.
In their Federal Register notice, the Department of the Interior noted, “Stakeholders and the general public hold a variety of views on how wild horses and burros should be managed. The BLM has determined that conducting focus groups, in-depth interviews and a national survey will lead to a better understanding of public perceptions, values and preferences regarding the management of wild horses and burros on public rangelands.”
The 2013 report, “Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: A Way Forward,” is the basis of the decision to learn more about public preference.
The BLM is requesting comments on the proposal in four areas.
First, the agency seeks comments on the need for collection of information for performance functions of the agency.
Secondly, they are seeking comment on the accuracy of the burden estimates provided in the notice, as well as ways to enhance the quality, utility and clarity of the information collected.
Finally, BLM is hoping to obtain comments on ways to minimize information collection burden on respondents.
“BLM put out a series of three draft documents of how the interviews would be done,” explains Jim Magagna, executive director of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.
Each discussion draft document details questions that should be asked in the interviews with each group.
“For the general public, for example, the discussion guides look at talking about allocation of animal unit months for horses versus cows and sheep,” Magagna mentions. “I’m not in favor of that. If one isn’t close to this issue and doesn’t understand it, how can they have an informed opinion?”
While there is guidance for interviewers to inform those uninformed members of the public, Magagna notes that it is impossible to absorb all of the facts related to such a complex issue in a few minutes.
“There is no way to correct all the misinformation that has been presented,” he says.
The documents are out for a 60-day comment period, which ends May 11.
“Once this is finalized, it says the BLM will determine the focus groups, in-depth interviews and a national survey which will lead to a better understanding of public perceptions, values and preferences for management of wild horses and burros,” Magagna says. “The primary respondents for the focus groups will be individuals belonging to a variety of organizations that have lobbied, commented or otherwise sought to influence the BLM and wild horse and burro programs.”
Nine focus groups in three locations are planned, as well as up to 12 in-depth interviews with individuals from stakeholder groups, such as ranchers and wild horse groups.
These sessions will be followed by four focus groups in two locations with the general public.
“After the focus groups and interviews, the information will be used to help design a national survey, which will help design the final phase of the research,” he explains.
He continues, “The management of wild horses is supposed to be guided by statute – not public perceptions, values and preferences.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.