Monday, November 23, 2009

BLM Plan Could Make the Mustang as Rare as the Buffalo

By Steven Long
HOUSTON, (Horseback) – Of the 14,000 wild horses the Bureau of Land Management will take from their wilderness homes next year, the agency will only return 2,200 to the wild.

A substantial number of the horses taken in BLM “gathers” will be mares. And of those, the agency says it will render 800 incapable of reproducing, or almost 40 percent of the heard strength returning to the wild. Equine geneticists claim the government’s plan is to eliminate wild horses from the American West in favor of cattle leases where ranchers pay a $1.35 per head per month.

Under this formula, there will be precious few Mustangs left in the West a generation from now. Wild horse lovers claim it is a rape of the national wildlife heritage comparable to the 19th century destruction of the buffalo herds that once roamed the land.

The BLM claims the horses are hard on the land, but currently there are only slightly more than 30,000 left in the wild according to the agency. That number is hotly disputed by animal welfare advocates. More than 1 million cows graze on the public acreage, yet the agency never complains of bovine damage to meadows and riparian areas.

The agency controls 262 million acres.

The government claims wild horses breed resulting in a 20 percent each increase in herd size each year resulting in an ever growing population. Yet entire foal crops are wiped out in some herd management areas each year by predators such as wolves and mountain lions. There are only slightly more than 60,000 wild horses left, and half are already in BLM holding pens eating government feed, hay, and grazing land at an ever growing cost to the taxpayer.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, (D) Louisiana, has called for the BLM to submit a report next year on how it plans to change what is currently perceived as gross mismanagement.

The agency says no herd management areas will be left bare of wild horses after next year’s roundups, however, anecdotal reports coming into Horseback’s offices this week tell another story. No wild horses can be found on a Nevada refuge after an October roundup, sauces say, yet the BLM claims horses are still there? Perhaps they are ghosts who only appear to government bureaucrats? Observers suffering from eye strain wonder.

The drug of choice to render mares incapable of reproducing is PZP. It is provided to the agency in a cozy deal with the Humane Society of the United States. Activists charge the nation’s largest animal welfare operation has a conflict of interest when it comes to wild horses.

Some have become increasingly aggravated with a perceived lack of action on the part of the HSUS, as well as the Washington based Animal Welfare Institute to halt BLM’s aggressive roundup schedule. In fact, HSUS applauded a BLM plan announced recently by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to remove wild horse herds from the west and place them as tourist attractions in the Midwest and East. Wild horse experts scoff at the plan.

Neither HSUS or AWI has lent their name or prestige to a petition demanding President Obama call a moratorium on BLM roundups of wild horses. The hard hitting petition has been submitted to the White House by The Cloud Foundation and the Equine Welfare Alliance.

Frustration with HSUS boiled over when EWA co-founder John Holland wrote last week to Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society, regarding the perception that the relationship with BLM appears to be too cozy.

“ Have you given any consideration to how HSUS is gradually being made more and more complicit in this rapidly expanding assault on our wild herds? Are you comfortable with that complicity?” Holland wrote. “It is now clear that the BLM is planning for the elimination or eventual extinction of the herds. I am deeply concerned that HSUS may be drawn into a ballooning potential scandal.”

Pacelle didn’t give Holland the courtesy of a reply, instead directing a wildlife scientist with HSUS to respond.

“The HSUS supports the use of contraception as a management tool to bring horses to, and maintain, viable populations on the range,” wrote Stephanie Boyles. “The HSUS does not support the gather and removal of any wild horse, except in cases in which the health or safety of an individual horse is in question, for which there is not the probability of locating an appropriate adoptive home.”

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