Saturday, February 27, 2010

California Senator Quizzes Salazar on his Deadly Wild Horse Fiasco

Straight from the Horse's Heart

written by Steven Long, Editor and Publisher of “Horseback Magazine
Ken Salazar
WASHINGTON, DC, (Horseback) –

California’s Sen. Barbara Boxer released a letter demanding answers from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar regarding the embattled Bureau of Land Management. It’s Wild Horse and Burro Program is under fire after the deaths of scores of horses in a mid-winter “gather” in Nevada’s Calico Mountains.
The horses were stampeded into holding pens after a grueling chase by a roaring helicopter over rockey ground in freezing weather. Two foals died after losing their hooves in an excruciating lingering death.

Dear Secretary Salazar:

I am writing to thank you for your recent attention to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) Wild Horse and Burro Program and to seek information that would help me evaluate your proposed reforms to this program.

Wild horses and burros are majestic symbols of the American west and are beloved by many people for their remarkable intelligence, grace, beauty, and power. Unfortunately, these charismatic animals have also been at the center of great controversy for many decades.

Commercial harvesting once threatened wild horses and burros until public outrage led to their protection under the 1971 Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. After working to recover these species for many years, the BLM has recently begun trying to reduce populations once more due to concerns that the animals are now overpopulated. The BLM contends that unchecked population growth has led to decimation of forage, starvation, competition with native animals, and land use conflicts. However, many animal rights advocates contend that the animals are healthy when left alone in the wild and that the BLM’s efforts to control populations are jeopardizing the survival of these iconic species.

To better understand your recent proposal for reforming the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program and evaluate these different arguments, I would appreciate it if you could answer the following questions:
What techniques are used to estimate wild horse and burro populations, assess the genetic viability of herds, and determine appropriate management levels? Has there been any independent verification of the BLM’s techniques or data to ensure that they are based in sound science?

What are the disadvantages of allowing wild horses and burros to remain unchecked in the wild? Has there been any independent documentation of the BLM’s claims about the health of these animals, their impact on environmental conditions, and the need to remove them?

How does BLM ensure the humane treatment of wild horses and burros during roundups and retention in holding facilities? Has there been any independent confirmation of the humaneness of the BLM’s treatment of these animals? Are there any alternative methods for rounding up the horses that might be less disruptive to these animals and possibly make them more suitable for adoption?

Do you have any specific sites in mind for the National Wild Horse Preserves that would be established under your new proposal? How many acres would be needed for these preserves? How many preserves would be federal and how many private?

How much would it cost to establish and manage these National Wild Horse Preserves? Can you provide me with a cost-benefit analysis comparing this proposal with the status quo and with leaving the horses where they are currently found?

This is a complex and emotional issue with important long-term ramifications for the future of our wild horse and burros. I appreciate your attention to this matter and your look forward to your timely response.
Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

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