Time for BLM to revisit its wild horse policies, says advocacy group’s white paper

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Pryor Mountain wild horses on the Montana-Wyoming border.
Pryor Mountain wild horses on the Montana-Wyoming border. Photo: BLM

A white paper produced by an advocacy group urges federal authorities to enter a new phase of wild horse management that brings an open approach the issue.

Wild Horse Freedom Federation has issued a 41-page white paper exploring the wild horse and burro program administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), focusing on problems related to holding facilities

The paper suggests wild horses are endangered and being pushed towards extinction.

It asserts there has been wasteful spending within the program and inconsistencies in documentation presented to both the public and Congress.

The federation says its white paper is based on five years of investigation, suggesting it found a consistent pattern of the BLM releasing what it describes as misinformation on the issue.

It claims that, despite the reported number of horses in captivity being 46,000, large numbers had disappeared from holding pens or did not arrive following transport.

It says documentation obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests on the topic appeared to verify that BLM statements are “filled with inaccuracies and poor math”.

“The beneficiaries of this systemic misrepresentation have been ranching and corporate energy interests,” the federation claimed in a statement released alongside the white paper.

“Despite a strident outcry from American taxpayers who want, as the law requires, the horses and burros protected and returned to their rightful place on public lands, the BLM has repeatedly asserted to America that the wild horses and burros need to be under its care.

“In the last century, the wild horse population has gone from two million to less than 36,000 under BLM management. Less than two out of 100 wild horses that were present then remain in 2017.”

The federation asserts that the BLM is the fox guarding the henhouse, “seemingly unwilling to enforce the laws that obligate them to protect wild horses and burros.”

The federation’s president, R.T. Fitch, said: “The Department of the Interior (DOI) and the BLM have undertaken a long-term ‘Fake News’ campaign to spread misinformation to confuse the issue.

“They want the wild horses and burros slaughtered, gone, full stop. Americans are not going to stand for that.

“It appears that President Trump appointed a long-time horse slaughter proponent to oversee the DOI and his first major act could be to kill tens of thousands of wild horses and burros, making this white paper a timely must-read for all Americans.”

Fitch was referring to efforts by the BLM to get congressional approval in its 2018 fiscal year budget to sell horses without limitation – a move advocates believe will see many captive wild horses enter the slaughter pipeline.

The paper says that balancing the interests of ranchers and the extraction industry on one hand, and the wild equids on the other, had been at the core of controversy over the BLM’s implementation of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act

“As of 2001, for every wild horse on the BLM lands, one hundred cows were grazing — a statistic that does not comport with the directives of the statute or the regulations.”

The white paper noted that, as recently as last October, the Department of the Interior’s Office of the Inspector General concluded that the “BLM does not have a strategic plan in place to manage the wild
horse and burro populations … A long term strategic plan is necessary to sustain land health,
animal populations, and affordability.”

The paper continued: “That plan must include sufficient transparency so that the public can see the changes that have been made in the BLM’s practices with respect to wild horses and burros.”

It said that the view of a 2013 National Academy of Sciences report on wild horse management was just as true today: “Transparency is an important contributor to the development of trust between agencies and stakeholders.”

Wild Horse Freedom Federation urged the agency to enter into a new phase of wild horse management that brought an open approach to the BLM’s important work.

It said the BLM’s “modus operandi to slowly eliminate wild horse herds” was in direct conflict with its
express statutory mandates under either the Wild Horse Act or Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

“It is also in conflict with the congressional intent behind the Wild Horse Act. It is time to revisit these policies, and develop new practices that will embody the sentiments of Congress and the American people, and adequately manage the herd populations.”

 

The white paper can be read here

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