Saturday, September 26, 2009

Senate Directs BLM to Get New Game Plan for Wild Horses in One Year

From Horseback Magazine
By Steven Long

Photo, C-SPAN

The United States Senate has passed a tough new bill that orders the Bureau of Land Management to institute a new plan for its management of wild horses. The legislation was introduced by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D), La.

“Sen. Landrieu continued her efforts to protect wild horses by championing bill language to prohibit the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from using taxpayer dollars for the destruction of healthy, un-adopted horses and burros,” the senator’s office said in a press release.

The agency has one year to comply should the House pass a similar bill. It would then go to the White House.

“At Sen. Landrieu's urging, the Senate directed BLM to develop a new comprehensive long-term plan for wild horse populations by September 30, 2010.”

The language was inserted in a Department of Interior bill passed Thursday.

"Congress must work toward the goal of ending the slaughter of healthy wild horses," Sen. Landrieu said. "At a time when there are so many demands on the federal purse, spending taxpayer money on this inhumane practice is inexcusable. There is simply no reason for the federal government to destroy these animals if viable alternatives exist."

“Sen. Landrieu also supported language that encouraged all federal agencies that use horses to acquire a wild horse from the Bureau of Land Management prior to seeking another supplier. In addition, the Committee supports BLM developing an expedited process for providing wild horses to local and state police forces,” the release continued.

Landrieu took to the floor of the Senate in late September to blast the BLM in a brief speech. She also urged passage of the Restore Our American Mustang Act (ROAM) which would restore protections removed in the dead of night when former Sen. Conrad Burns (R), Montana, attached a rider to an appropriations bill that nobody read at the 11th hour before passage. The bill will repeal Burns’ legislative trickery and bring full compliance back to the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.

The House passed ROAM by a vote of 239 – 185.

In an exclusive interview with Horseback Magazine, Burns said he enacted the legislation at the behest of the now Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, (D), Nevada who is facing a tough re-election campaign.

Landrieu’s Senate Speech

Landrieu via C-Span

Thank you, mr. President. I appreciate the leadership of the senator from california and tennessee trying to move this important appropriations bill through the process. As you heard this morning, there are lots of very important issues pending before the body. I came to speak just for a few minutes not about an amendment pending at the present time, but about an issue that is bubbling up and brewing in a fairly significant way that we will have to address sometime soon, not necessarily on this bill today, not necessarily through an amendment process to the interior. But a program that is in the interior appropriations bill that is screaming for attention, and that is the program having to deal with the management of wild horses in our country. It's not a major issue to all of our 50 states, but it's a very big issue to a handful of western states and of interest to several of us in this body. And that's what i wanted to speak about. First, let me thank senator feinstein and her staff for the leadership that they are providing and helping us shape policy as we move forward. She's been extremely attentive and i want to thank her very much. I want to acknowledge the interest of former senator salazar, now secretary salazar, and his top leadership. They've got a tremendous amount of issues before them. Those that are going to take a lot of their time. And for them to make this a priority because some of us have asked them to, i want to acknowledge that and to thank them, all the assistant secretaries and staff on the interior that are working on this. The reason it's important is from two aspects. One, there's a fiscal note attached to this that taxpayers are alarmed about. That is that the wild horse program because of its mismanagement and poor way of operating and old-fashioned way of operating, is chewing up or taking up about three-quarters of the budget of the bureau of land management. And so from just a fiscal perspective and a financial management perspective, it's crying out for reform. On the other hand, there's another view of the humanity or inhumaneness of some of the practices going on that are also crying out for attention. And i come to speak briefly about both. And i understand that my colleagues are here to talk about other subdz. But, first of all, the big picture. At the turn of the century we had about a million wild horses on the territory of the united states. I guess it's a sad thing today for most people's perspective that we're now down to 66,000 wild horses. Basically forced through policies developed in the 1970's to stay in relatively, relatively small places grouped in just a few states, most notably the state of nevada, wyoming, and california, and a few other western states. We also are down to just a few herds of horses. And the reason that i think that this is even more important than to just western states or the rankers or landowners or humane society and others is because for the people generally, the idea of wild spaces with wild horses is something that is really part of our heritage. And we want to make sure that that heritage isn't lost, that we're being responsible in terms of the way the land is being used for multiple purposes and from the perspective of horse advocates, that the horses themselves are being treated fairly. And none of that right now is being done in the way that most people, i believe, would appreciate or would be satisfied with. There have been any number of studies that i'm going to submit to the record. Most recently, the congressional research service as well as the government accounting office has suggested major changes to the program. I'm just going to go through a few possible options. One, the creation of several public-private sanctuaries. This has been suggested by a few fairly high-profiled individuals in our country. The idea has merit. We are working with a variety of different groups along with the department to think about the possibility of creating public-private partnerships, large sanctuaries, maybe 500,000 or a million acres where thousands of wild horses could not only roam freely in a healthy way, but they also could potentially become ecotourist opportunities for some of the states and communities as it would be an attraction that could potentially make money and attract people out to some of these western areas. Or, for that matter, grant rural areas in other parts of the country. There is a possibility to make some smart investments to step up some of the adoption programs that might work. And there are any number of scientific and new technologies that can be brought to bear in terms of breed management, reproductive issues that could help us get a muchmore cost-effective, sane and humane approach to this problem. So i wanted to just let the leaders of this bill know that while we will not have an amendment at this time on the interior bill, i'm looking forward to working with the members of the energy committee that have jurisdiction over this matter to review in detail the bill that's come over from the house, by the chairman of that subcommittee, who i want to commend for taking his time and his committee's time, congress rahall, that sent a bill over to the senate, and as we begin to discuss the ways that that bill could potentially be modified, working with the department of interior to find a long-term solution, one that's cost-effective, one that's humane. And, mr. President, one that west, helped us to open up transport and commerce for this nation, have carried us into war, into battle, helped to feed and clothe this nation in our history needs a bit more than what they are getting right now. And finally i'll say in closing there was a disturbing roundup a few weeks ago -- i'll say in conclusion, there was a disturbing roundup a few week ago. We'll continue to work to until -- until we find a better way forward. It will be very respectful of the western lands and the ranchers who have multiple uses of this property. I'm certain in the nation that god has bequeathed to us, we can find enough space for everyone if we kind of keep an open mind. I know the senator from tennessee will agree with that, that if we work hard enough, we can find some common ground solutions to this issue.

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