By Steven Long, Photo by Rich Hill
HOUSTON, (Horseback) – Wild Horse advocates have long been under the impression that BLM prohibited airborne observation of its “gathers.” Not so says the agency’s Washington public information officer Melodie A. Lloyd after a query from Horseback Magazine.
A former commercial airline pilot tipped the magazine that it is rare for the FAA to close airspace unless it is required by the military or there is a national security concern such as Air Force One being in the area.
Our note to the BLM said:
“We have had the pilot from a major airline ask by what authority BLM is claiming to close airspace over its roundups.
The following is his note: “airspace restrictions are the under the jurisdiction of the FAA and to some degree the TSA. Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR’s) areas can be set up on short notice in the interest of public safety and certain events.
However, most restricted areas are set up on a permanent basis after public notification and are published on aeronautical charts. You might start with http://sua.faa.gov/sua/Welcome.do”
But the BLM couldn’ t resis
t the Washington government spin habit in responding to our request for clarification. Lloyd responded:
“Since receiving your e-mail here in Washington, our research shows that the pilot unfortunately received some misinformation,” Lloyd wrote in an email response Friday.
“Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) and Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) are frequently used by the BLM during suppression efforts for wild land fires, where providing a safe environment for all aircraft, ground crews, and the public is paramount,” she continued.
“Because the BLM only wants to ensure the same outcome for gathers, earlier this year we did consider a TFR for the Nevada gathers, but the field staff learned from the Federal Aviation Administration that gather operations currently do not meet the standard criteria, which requires a hazard and/or disaster to exist.
Hopefully no incident will ever force gather operations into that category,” Lloyd said.
Wild horse advocates have told Horseback Magazine the BLM has often given the impression that airspace over its “gathers” was closed during operations.
Not so, says the Federal Aviation Administration, according to Lloyd.
Herding wild horses by a helicopter flying low to the ground clearly falls far below the FAA’s rigid standards for closing airspace.
In all likelihood, there will be cameras in the air soon.