Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), is recommending the Bureau of Land Management euthanize healthy excess wild horses and burros as a management alternative.
In a letter addressed to BLM director Bob Abbey, AZGFD Director Larry Voyles states, “In order to have a truly open dialogue and consideration for all viable management alternatives, the BLM should reconsider the inclusion of two options, which have been identified as “off the table” for the development of the new draft strategy: 1) euthanasia of healthy excess animals, and 2) their sale without limitation.”
While the BLM did indeed request comment from all stake holders on the Bureaus Wild Horse and Burro Strategy Development document until september 3, press releases and the document itself clearly designated these two management alternatives as “off the table”.
BLM’s 2008 announcement that it was considering the euthanasia of more than 30,000 wild horses brought a tidal wave of public outrage. Pressure to mend a broken program followed shortly thereafter. Congress has repeatedly denied funding for euthanasia and all indications are that denial will continue.
The “sale without limitation” clause, already in limited use, came about in 2004 with the now infamous Burns’ Rider NO. 142. An undetected amendment, silently added to an appropriations bill during a Thanksgiving holiday by then Senator Conrad Burns, passed through Congress with no knowledge of its existence and no legislative debate. Sale without limitation allows BLM to sell qualifying equines with no protections for their welfare, usually at a next to nothing price. Within four months after George Bush signed the bill into law in 2005, documented cases of BLM horses sold for slaughter started to surface.
BLM’s current posting on Facebook states, “ Since 2005, the Bureau has sold more than 4,100 horses and burros. A Sept. 2009 BLM fact sheet refers to such results as achieving, " limited success as implemented."
The body of AZGFD’s letter reveals an agency, not unlike the BLM itself, basing decisions on obsolete information. Scientific references used to substantiate claims of detrimental effects of wild equids on other forms of wildlife are an average of over 17 years old ,with only 20% being less than 10 years old. One reference cited is a Vertebrae Pest conference from 1974, some 36 years ago. It is doubtful any of these documents would meet National Environmental Protection Agency requirements.
AZGFD expresses concern regarding the “accurate ecological or evolutionary understanding of wild horses and burros on the North American continent. “ The agency’s claim that ,“ wild horses and burros are not native to North America ” is in direct conflict with accepted scientific evidence of Equus Caballus evolution on the North American continent.
Director Larry Voyles offered his expert testimony to the House Natural Resources Subcommittee against passage of the ROAM Act ( HR 1018) in March of last year. It is presumed that at least a portion of his testimony was based on the aforementioned scientific evidence. The Committee voted to pass the act which has since stalled in the Senate.
Perhaps the AZGFD should take their own advice on two important points, “ It is imperative, though, that any public outreach, marketing, environmental education, and showcasing accurately and thoroughly tell the story of free-roaming wild horses and burros.” and , ‘ The Department fully supports attempts to research, develop, and incorporate the best scientific knowledge and applications available to aid in the management of wild horses and burros.”
BLM DIrector Bob Abbey’s Washington office has not responded to multiple requests for comment
Comments on the Wild Horse and Burro Strategy Development Document can be submitted either: (1) by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org ( “WHB Public Comment” is required in the subject line); (2) by mail to BLM Washington Office, 1849 C Street NW, Rm. 5665, Washington, DC 20240 (if mailing, comments need to be postmarked no later than September 3, 2010); or (3) using the ePlanning process accessible online at http://blm.gov/m14c. COMMENT PERIOD ENDS SEPT. 3.
UPDATE: "See Congress joins the wild horse waiting list" for BLM's response