As many of you may recall, last summer BLM announced it was considering putting to death thousands of wild horses in its care, as a way to balance the books. After a massive public outcry, the decision was postponed until the next Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting. The meeting took place this past Monday, following release of a long-awaited Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the federal Wild Horse and Burro Program.
The GAO Report was a disappointment in that it failed to address the systemic problems associated with BLM's wild horse management policies, focusing instead on options available to address the glut of horses in government holding: 'euthanasia,' sale without limitation (i.e. slaughter), or release of the captive horses on some of the 19 million acres lost by the herds since passage of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act. The GAO merely sent BLM and Congress back to the drawing board, while failing to investigate the underlying cause of the current crisis: the unnecessary removal of thousands upon thousands of wild horses from our public lands.
At Monday's meeting, BLM Deputy Director Henry Bisson announced that any decision regarding 'euthanasia' would be postponed for a year. In the meantime, BLM will be working with Madeleine Pickens, wife of oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, as well as other private parties, who have offered to take thousands of horses off BLM's hands into privately-run sanctuaries. Our deepest gratitude goes out to Mrs. Pickens and the other good Samaritans offering their land in this 11th hour reprieve for the horses.
A looming crisis has been averted, but many concerns remain:
- More than ever, a moratorium on round-ups is in order until actual numbers of wild horses and burros on public lands have been independently assessed, and legally-mandated range studies have been conducted.
- The BLM 'bail-out' by private parties should come with strings attached to ensure that we are not just emptying government corrals so that BLM can continue rounding up more and more horses.
- At Monday?s meeting, the Advisory Board made some highly disturbing recommendations, including shipping horses abroad as 'foreign agricultural aid,' removing restrictions against slaughter for horses sold under the Burns Amendment, and extending Burns Amendment sales to younger horses and foreign markets. Death in a Canadian or Mexican slaughterhouse is no better, if not worse, than a government bullet to the head. WE MUST REMAIN VIGILANT.
The incoming Obama-Biden administration presents an opportunity toward a new beginning for the federal Wild Horse and Burro Program. Please contact the Office of the President-Elect and express your concerns and hopes for the future of our wild horses.
On behalf of America?s wild horses and burros, thank you for your support,
The AWHPC Team
American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign
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