Sunday, March 21, 2010

BLM gets budget boost for wild horse management

By Frank X. Mullen Jr. • • March 21, 2010
The more horses that are removed from the range, the higher federal care and feeding costs soar.

They are about to go a lot higher.President Barack Obama's 2011 budget proposal calls for a $12 million increase in the Bureau of Land Management's $64 million wild horse and burro program. If approved, that would bring that portion of the agency's budget to $75.7 million.
The budget proposal makes a separate request of $42.5 million for the purchase of land for wild horse preserves in the Midwest or East. The land would become a pasture for the captured Western horse herds.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said his plan would "restore the health of America's wild horse herds and the rangelands that support them by creating a cost-efficient, sustainable management program..."The current path ... is not sustainable for the animals, the environment, or the taxpayer," Salazar said in a letter to Congress.
Wild horse advocates oppose the sanctuary plan, which they see as a gift to ranchers whose cattle won't have to compete with as many wild horses for forage. Instead, they said, cows should give way to mustangs and antelope and the horses should be kept on -- and captive horses returned to -- Western acreage.
"Any proposal to improve horse and burro management in the West should include removal of domestic livestock from public lands to make way for horses and burros and wildlife," said 

Mark Salvo of the New Mexico-based WildEarth Guardians.
The Colorado-based Cloud Foundation says acreage for mustangs should returned to 1971 levels. That designated land, provided for the wild horses by federal law, has been reduced by nearly 40 percent.
"It would seem that the best use of taxpayer dollars and the most humane plan for (36,400) wild horses in government holding would be to return them to their native lands" said Ginger Kathrens, the foundation's volunteer executive director. "These millions of acres were identified for use by wild horses, and they are already owned by the American public."
Salazar said his proposals would put the wild horse program "on a more sustainable track, enhance the conservation for this iconic animal, and provide better value for the taxpayer."

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