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Wild horse plan called "a financial sinkhole"

March 1, 2010

Wild horses being driven into a trap by a helicopter.

Trapped horses await transport. © BLM

A plan to create sanctuaries for wild horses further east of their natural rangeland habitat has been described as a financial sinkhole by the Equine Welfare Alliance.

The alliance was commenting before the hearing of funding testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Energy and Natural resources on March 3.

The Bureau of Land Management has acknowledged that reforms are needed within its programme to manage wild horses and burros on the western rangelands.

However, the plan suggested last October by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to relocate wild horses on to better land further east, together with more aggressive use of long-term contraception, has failed to satisfy wild horse supporters.

They have labelled the planned sanctuaries as "Salazoos".

The alliance says the outcome of the testimony before the appropriations committee will decide if wild horses belong on their western public lands or in "zoos" in the east and midwest.

The hearing, it said, would decide whether the bureau would commit millions of dollars to "warehouse" wild horses and burros that would otherwise live without cost to the taxpayers in their natural habitat where they have lived for centuries.

The requested funding would increase the bureau's budget by $US42 million to buy one of the seven planned sanctuaries.

The alliance says it is opposed to increased funding for the bureau "for this incredible financial sinkhole".

"America already has a management program in place for our wild equines," alliance representatives Vicki Tobin and Laura Allen said in a statement. "It's called the 1971 Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act. It was inspired by a heroic Nevada woman, Velma Johnston, who as 'Wild Horse Annie', gave these horses a sanctuary the bureau has been trying to destroy ever since it was passed."

The alliance argued that a management programme for wild horses and burros on public land had yet to be proposed by the bureau or Department for the Interior that is compatible with current law.

"Their answer is to remove wild horses from the land, permit grazing by millions of cattle at below market rates and move our horses to a zoo-like setting far from their home.

"In fact, the bureau was given appropriations to care for the wild horses in holding pens but has appeared to use the funding to round-up more horses.

"With no viable management plan in place, it is a disgrace and waste of critical tax payer dollars to increase funding to yet another mismanaged programme.

"The 1971 law calls for wild horses and burros to be managed on their public lands - not in holding pens and not in zoos."

The alliance said the bureau spent about $US2 milion gathering a mere 2000 animals at its Calico wildlife management area - a cost of $US1000 per horse.

"Once in holding, the animals will each cost the government approximately $US500 per year to warehouse. Worse, the government charges ranchers only about 20 cents of every dollar that programme costs taxpayers.

"The Salazoo plan is yet another raid on the public funds by special interests", says alliance spokesman John Holland.

The alliance said wild horses and burros represented a mere .05 per cent of animals grazing on public lands.

When the 1971 law was passed, wild horses were present on 54 million acres.

Since then, more than 200,000 horses have been removed, along with 22 million acres of public land. Many herds have been zeroed out.

Livestock grazing on public lands outnumber the wild horses and burros by over 200 to 1 and are subsidised by taxpayers to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

It says the bureau and interior department have yet to explain how millions of privately owned livestock are sustainable or how neither agency can find room on the 262 million acres of public land it manages for fewer than 50,000 wild horses and burros.

Wild horse advocates want a moratorium on the gathering of wild horses while a suitable long-term management plan is developed.



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