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Wild Horses and BLM's promise of a new day dawning


A wild stallion protecting his harem                               photo / Carrol Abel

Questions and controversy fly on the heels of Thursday's  proclamation by  Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Bob Abbey of a "new day and fresh look at the wild horse and burro program".  Abbey is requesting public input concerning a Strategy Development Document  designed to implement Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's Wild Horse and Burro Initiative which is to be presented before Congress this coming September.

Though the announcement came as a surprise to many, it follows in the wake of a process which began late last year.  The U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution (ECR), an independent federal agency, was contracted by the BLM to assess the ongoing conflict between the Bureau and stakeholders in the management  of wild horses on public lands.  In order to ensure an unbiased report, ECR then hired Kearns and West, an agency with no connection to the federal government, to do the assessment.  Conflict resolution was specifically geared toward effective public engagement in Secretary Salazar's initiative.

The ECR process involved gathering information from a variety of prospective stakeholders, assessing that information, and presenting a series of recommendations to the BLM.  Though BLM is not bound by these recommendations, it is hoped they will use them as guidelines with which to accomplish their goal. Thursday's call for public input  was apparently BLM's first step  in implementing the recommendations.  ECR's report was released simultaneously.

BLM has also scheduled a round table discussion of defined issues a day prior to the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting which takes place in Colorado on June 15.  Both the round table and the meeting are open to the public.  The burning question is, " Will these be the only steps taken toward public engagement and commitment to public opinion?"  The answer is not immediately evident.

Animal advocates are a bit saddle sore from past relations with BLM.  Trust is in short supply.  The proclamation of a new day dawning was delivered with mixed messages wrapped in a pretty package.  

BLM's now double-duty director ( recently assigned to handle the mess at Mineral Management) suggests round table topics such as the potential reintroduction of wild herd into areas where they currently don't exist and opportunities to make forage more available to them.  Both of these topics address suggestions that advocates have been making for some time.

The announcement also says, " The euthanasia of healthy excess animals or their sale without limitation to protect the animals from slaughter" is a topic of discussion and an option that will be off the table.  Dean Bolstad, National Program Division Chief, confirmed interpretation of this wording to mean that the topic will not be included in the Secretary's initiative.

In addressing perhaps the most controversial of subjects, BLM's announcement stated, "Abbey clarified that the BLM will move forward with scheduled gathers in the near term."   It goes on to quote Abbey as saying, " Based on the best information the BLM currently has, without these gathers the land will suffer, wildlife will suffer, and ultimately, the horses will suffer."

Though Abbey was not available to spell out the meaning of " in the near term", Bolstad defined this as any gathers currently scheduled or in the planning stages and mentioned the possibility of roundups and removals continuing into 2011.

A cross section of stakeholders interviewed in the ECR process, including past and present BLM employees, cited scientific expertise, data gaps and research issues as a low priority within the management of the program.  These are the very things used  to determine the need to remove horses from the range.  Advocates question a decision to continue the removals " based on the best information the BLM currently has."

According to BLM's published gather schedule for FY 2010, around 8,000 additional wild horses and burros are yet to be rounded up in FY 2010.  These will add to the roughly 5,000 already gathered.  Note: the 1,922 horses recently gathered from the Calico Complex  do not appear on either of these documents. The schedule  for 2011 is not available at this time.


  • MorganG 5 years ago

    There's a lot of suspicion about this "reaching out" to the public. As you stated the gathers continue, if this was all that sincere why not a moratorium. Especially in light of the obvious completely erroneous counts done in the Calico Complex which have left the area nearly devoid of horses. Will the opinions actually be given any weight in future decisions or is this just a way to placate the public. Is Salazoo a done deal with nary any room for compromise. If these horses are to be released where would they be released to? Their original range as was the intent of the 1971 Act or on to the East in Midwest into sterile zoo-like existence? A lot of questions and with th past dealings with blm few honest answers.

  • equus5 5 years ago

    The BLM are ready to take the WH&B Program in a "new direction" AFTER they completely annihilate our wild herds? They'll stop "inadvertently" selling wild horses to kill buyers for a buck? Reality check. Any horses left standing will be put in a Salzoo waiting to die. This is just a ruse for them to appear that they're complying with the Senate's call to develop a new long-term plan for WH&B populations by September 30, 2010 - this is why the urgency to wipe out as many wild equines as possible before then. There are two things I hate most about Bob Abbey -- his face. As much as I'd love to believe that the tide is turning and there will finally be a turnaround in the mismanagement of these magnificent animals, I know better and I will never again believe a word the BLM says - at least not in their present form - and I sincerely hope that wild horse and burro advocates do not fall for this fairy tale either. Our wild ones can't afford for us to let our guard down. BLM is counting on it

  • Nancy Babcock 5 years ago

    If Bob Abbey is serious about this "new day and fresh look" at the wild horse and burro program, the first thing he would do is halt the roundups scheduled for 2010, THEN look at the "new day." To continue the BLM rampage of our wild horse and burro herds will bring the herd numbers to a point from which they won't be able to recover--is this Abbey's real intent? Wouldn't that just be a classic BLM move? Do what they want to do (eliminate wild horses from their rightful grazing land), and at the same time, "talk pretty" about how they are going to take a "fresh look" what?? The ever increasing millions of corporate ranchers' cattle that do more damage to the range than the handful of horses that are left? Come on.

    Who believes the BLM is actually interested in saving the horses? I would love to be wrong about this. Here's the chance for the BLM to prove their intentions--either halt the roundups now and THEN talk, or don't halt them--and keep "talking pretty"--we'll soon know

  • Cheryl Hanna Pet Rescue Examiner 5 years ago

    I have little faith in the BLM based solely and objectively on their past performance. I question the population numbers the BLM has distributed to the public; I question their motives since grazing animals have somehow, via the discretion of the BLM, become the ecological " heroes" and the wild horses destroy everything. How can that be?
    I question now the need to eliminate the wild horses because of drilling and mining; and again the horses are the enemy of Mother Nature,and let's not speak of the dire consequences that could happen to our environment the way that contest is heading too!
    I question the ridiculous Salazoo plans and how anyone could convince anyone knowing about horses that these wild ones will do better in the East. I do hope Salazar and the BLM come equipped with farrier equipment.
    This is just another lame plan to try and convince the public that our American icons should be run off their natural habitat and allow our country to be destroyed.

  • Laura M. 5 years ago

    This claim that the land would be over grazed etc is largest reason to round up the horses and spend Millions feeding them on some feed lot. Wouldn't it be more cost effective and better for the horses to take the feed to them instead? This 0 reporductive heads he wants to create is Nuts. If the land is being over grazed then GET big corporate Ranchers animals Off it

  • mjwilson4978 5 years ago

    Someday they'll have all the lands and all the horses locked up tight and then they'll be after us, just like they did to the Native American's. Same old calvary just new uniforms.

  • Lisa LeBlanc 5 years ago

    I recently downloaded a map of concurrent & overlapping Herd Management Areas and Grazing Permit Areas in Nevada.
    Guess which is larger?
    And can you guess What overlaps into Where?
    Wild Ones found off the Rez are summarily 'removed'. It's (and you'll please pardon the descent into immaturity) unfair - to expect the Wild Ones to share their range with stock animals but be punished for ranging off their proscribed areas.
    'Cause they shoulda read the MAP...
    I'd like very much to believe this IS the dawn of a new day - because it's important to utilize every avenue for the continued welfare of these animals. I want to keep an open mind, and to hope.
    But, and no offense to Mr. Abbey, his credibility with Advocates is questionable, and with his new responsibilites with Mineral Management, I'd feel a whole lot better if he'd pass this on to someone with a broader mindset- maybe someone with no prior history of dismissing Advocates out of hand.

  • sandra 5 years ago

    I am happy to see i wasn't the only one who smelled a rat. a skunk and a dead fish in the trunk..Without a moratorium on the roundups..this is a meaningless gesture aimed at trying to meet that september deadline before congress..The new day dawning will be a landscape empty of horses..whats left to discuss? where to bury the bones of our horses? Seems to me we need to step up our protests and letters to the white house and our senators.

  • Paula 5 years ago

    We know the real enemy of our wild horses are the cattle conglomerates. The BLM is is just their strong arm. Yes, we need to continue to write and call the White House. Yes, we need to keep up the protests and spread the word about what is happening to all Americans. But the real answer is to hurt these ranching conglomerates. You don't think you can? Yes you can! STOP BUYING BEEF. Period.

  • Maureen B 4 years ago

    I don't want to downplay the message, but that is a gorgeous photo!

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