Wednesday, February 3, 2010

U.S. Humane Society Head Quietly Meeting With BLM Officials

Horseback Magazine

A Horseback Exclusive
By Steven Long 

HOUSTON, (Horseback) - Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, is America’s champion when it comes to animals. He has been in the forefront of controversial issues such as condemnation of quarterback Michael Vick over animal abuse, fighting the national tragedy of puppy mills, public outrage over the soring controversy among owners of Tennessee Walking Horses, and the ongoing issue of killing horses for profit. Yet activists charge America’s largest animal welfare organization has been AWOL on the issue of the decimation of the nation’s herds of wild horses. We sat down with Pacelle in a Horseback interview.

HORSEBACK MAGAZINE: There has been noise among activists that the Humane Society has been conspicuously absent in the fight over the Bureau of Land Management Calico Mountains gather. Have you been following it closely, and is there something going on that maybe we don’t know about?
WAYNE PACELLE: You know it’s really a government decision. The Bureau of Land Management controls this program and we have been speaking with leaders at the BLM about this roundup and about the entire program since the beginning of the year. And just because we don’t issue a press release or hold a news conference does not mean we are not exerting major pressure on the agency.

HORSEBACK: What are you telling them?

PACELLE: In the broadest sense, we are telling them that their wild horse and burro program is broken. It’s been grounded on a series of inhumane and fiscally reckless management practices and that it needs to be turned around. We’ve told them that on the range management with contraception with the central as the central management tool has to be the focus and they must stop the roundup and removal in order to protect the horses and to prevent the financial ruin of this program. In this fiscal year, they will be spending 75 percent of all their money handling captive horses. That was never imagined by the 1971 law that Congress passed to protect the animals.

HORSEBACK: Clearly, they have turned a deaf ear to your entreaties. What do you think it’s going to take to get their attention?

PACELLE: Well, I’m hopeful that they will come to their senses. We hired an economist and he looked at their entire program and gave Bob Abbey and the other managers of the program a detailed presentation on how continued roundup and removal is going to bankrupt their program. We showed them that a concentration contraception and leaving the horses on the range would save them $260 million over the next decade.

HORSEBACK: Is the Humane Society support repatriating the horses that are currently in captivity to areas outside the original boundaries set by the 1971 act?

PACELLE: We were the primary group lobbying on Capitol Hill in favor of the ROAM Act (Restore Our American Mustangs Act) which includes a series of policy reforms including reclaiming the 19 million acres that wild horses and burros occupied when the (original) act was passed, so we are on record as supporting the idea of allowing horses to reclaim those lands. Now whether its repatriation or herd expansion, we haven’t gotten into detail about that.

HORSEBACK: What is the position of the Humane Society on the use of helicopters for rounding up horses?

PACELLE: That was in the original ROAM Act. We favor for contraceptive purposes, more passive methods such as feed and water to bait animals. If there is going to be an active roundup we don’t think that helicopters are the most humane way but there may be a circumstance warranted in an extreme situation, but the point is we want to see the BLM stop the roundups and removal. They should have a moratorium on roundups and removal and they should be applying contraceptives to a larger percentage of the herds that they think should be managed.

HORSEBACK: the current Calico roundup began on December 28th and to date 27 horses have died and 20 – 30 mares have had miscarriages. By their own statistics, there were deaths in about 45 percent of all of their roundups last year. That seems like an extraordinarily high number resulting from a careless way to do business.

PACELLE: It’s shameful. It’s totally inconsistent with the proper and humane management of these populations, and it’s happening at a time when the program is so severely broken, and they’ve lost the trust of the American people in handling their responsibilities. We are speaking directly with the BLM leaders. Just last week we had a press conference on Capitol Hill that that involved Native American leaders, farmers, actresses, lawmakers such as Sen. Landrieu, Rep. Whitfield, that rebuked the agency for its reckless management of the program.

HORSEBACK: Yet it doesn’t seem to make a difference. I’ve been covering government for close to 40 years. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a federal, state, or local, agency this independent, this reckless, and with this much of a tin ear. Nothing seems to get their attention. 

PACELLE: Well, I do think that they are listening. I don’t think they have changed their behavior, and I’m afraid they just don’t get the concept that they’ve got to stop the roundups and removal. That is the element that is causing all of their problems. It’s the source of the long term fiscal problems, and it’s the source of the controversy in terms of the protection of these herds.

HORSEBACK: One more question. What’s it going to take?

PACELLE: Well the ROAM Act has passed the house, and Sen. Landrieu is very determined on the Senate side. It may take legislative action to direct BLM to change its course. It may mean de-funding the roundups through the appropriations process, and I do think that the pressure that’s been building is being heard at BLM. It’s got to continue in order to jolt them into a new way of thinking about their management of wild horses and burros.

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