Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Is BLM Proposing Any Real Change to its Wild Horse and Burro Program?

From Animal Law

Posted Oct 7, 2009 by lauraallen

In a telephonic news conference today Secretary of the Dept. of Interior Ken Salazar and Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey announced what they described as a new initiative for managing the wild horses and burros.

Secretary Salazar said the proposal will "better protect the wild horses". He described the wild horse population as "out of control" and "a problem simmering and growing over time". The total population of wild horses, both on public lands and in holding facilities is, according to Salazar, 69,000 compared to 25,000 in 1971 when the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed to protect wild horses on public lands.

Salazar claims the operation of holding facilities for excess horses will cost taxpayers $29 million, or about 70 percent of the total 2009 enacted wild horse and burro program budget of $40.6 million.

He insisted that "arid western lands and watersheds" can't support these populations of wild horses "without significant damage to the environment" and "degrading public lands". He also said the horses are "not in good condition" because of lack of forage. (Salazar did not mention the thousands of cattle grazing and drinking and fouling water on these lands or land swaps and sales, development and mining as well as in Nevada a plan to siphon off water from herd areas; surelyif public lands are "degraded", these are far more of a factor.)

Salazar announced that he had sent a letter to Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) today which contains a 3 part proposal: 1. Establish a set of wild horse preserves, basically two, in the midwest or east where there is more water, and work with non-profits and the "thousands" of wild horse enthusiasts to create more sanctuaries and preserves. Tourism would be encouraged and could provide a source of revenue.

2. Secretary Salazar with his authority under the WFRHBA will designate more ranges and work to "highlight" wild horses on these ranges. He cited the Pryor Mountain herd, recently rounded up and decimated as an example of a range under BLM protection.

3. This one was a bit vague but seems to be that BLM will continue to round up and remove horses but will step up "fertility control", monitor sex ratios, introduce non-reproducing herds and increase the flexibilty of adoptions to "good homes". Under this part of the initiative BLM will work to restore the sustainaiblity of herds and public lands.....

It is not clear that anything will really change in the near future except that at some point some horses may be moved to preserves or sanctuaries from holding facilities or even public lands in the west. Salazar made clear that proposed sanctuaries such as that offered by Madeleine Pickens will be considered so the success of this will depend on those in the community who love wild horses and can help provide places for them to roam as freely as possible.

Perhaps with this announcement the BLM simply hopes to avert a bill pending in Congress, S.B. 1579, that will change its managment of wild horses and burros and save them from slaughter or killing by the BLM. This announcement may also have been calculated to stop the talk of moving management of the wild horses and burros away from the BLM.

For more on the laws relating to the wild horses and burros..... Also, go here for information about the bill pending in Congress, ROAM Act, S.B. 1579, that would save wild horses and burros from slaughter and reform the BLM's management of these animals.

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