BLM Digs in Heels Over Costly Approach to Wild Horses Despite Sequester


Suzanne Roy / Campaign Director, American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign / Huffington Post Blog / April 5, 2013

Suzanne Roy

Suzanne Roy

If a budget is a statement of priorities, then what are we to make of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) recent decision to sign a $6 million contract with a company that provides helicopters for wild horse roundups while cutting back spending at the largest wild horse adoption facility in the country?

Let’s take a step back and consider the facts:

The across-the-board, automatic federal spending cuts, known as the sequester, took effect on March 1. It was reported that the impacts would be widespread, painful and felt immediately.

So it was no surprise when, on March 24, the BLM announced that the sequester forced the agency to slash weekend operating hours at its Palomino Valley National Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Center. The facility is 20 miles north of Reno and a key component of the agency’s adoption program for federally protected wild horses.

You can imagine my reaction this week when the Weekly Standard discovered that, nine days before that, on March 15, the BLM signed a contract with Skyhawk Helicopter Services for $6 million. This arrangement gives the agency access to the key tool it needs to execute roundups of wild horses over the course of the coming year.

Two crucial pieces of information demonstrate how these spending decisions reflect the BLM’s misguided priorities for its wild horse program.

The first is that helicopters can be used – carefully — in the process capturing horses to administer the PZP vaccine. This is a fertility control drug that many wild horse advocates like myself support because it keeps wild horses on the range where they belong and eliminates the need for an expensive, inhumane and unsustainable stockpiling system.

But if last year is any indication, helicopters operating under this contract won’t be doing much of that. In 2012, the BLM spent less than 4% of its budget on fertility control and other measures to keep wild horses wild. The rest of the budget — the vast majority of the program’s expenditures — went to capturing wild horses, removing them from our public lands and stockpiling them in holding facilities.

What are the consequences of this approach? For the first time in history, more wild horses are warehoused in captivity (50,000) than remain free in the wild (fewer than 32,000). And since these are government holding facilities, stockpiling 50,000 wild horses costs taxpayers more than $120,000 per day.

The second piece of information you need to know is that wild horse adoptions can be a relief valve for the program. At least they could be if the agency wasn’t removing horses from the wild in numbers that far exceed adoption demand. Over the past four years, the BLM has annually removed 8,000-10,000 horses and burros from the wild while adopting out fewer than 3,000 of them.

Although leaving wild horses on the range — not adoption — is the solution to BLM’s mismanagement woes, it is true that every horse that is not adopted goes into the stockpiling system. So by cutting Saturday hours at the Palomino Valley Adoption Center, the BLM limits access for people who do want to adopt horses, and that will likely lead to fewer adoptions, more horses in stockpiling and a higher price tag for taxpayers.


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AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
  • ClipClopToday

    Why not spend this money and stock pile these horses so they can be sold at $10/head at auction to kill buyers and resold for $$$$. Is any of that money going back into the BLM budget to help manage these horses. RIGHT!! It is corruption at it’s worse and right out in the open. Raise horses and round them up at tax payers money, send them to auction cheap to a known kill buyer (and friend?) and then make the real killing in profit… ALL AT THE TAX PAYERS EXPENSE. Why wouldn’t you do the same when no one is stopping you? It is not government mismanagement… it is just your typical government greed succeeding.

    April 5, 2013
  • Patricia Coffman

    BLM is just full of BS excuses. Now they think by not allowing people into the Auctions to save these Wild horses from killbuyers and Slaughter houses that tax payers have nothing to say about it..fed up with them and tired of their Lies…

    April 5, 2013
  • sherriey

    … i said before….the word and its meaning…”sequester”…is for us peons only…just another brainwashing. for the gov and its $$$ making deals….its a non-word!

    we the people are to just shut up and pay our taxes like good little boys and girls!

    April 5, 2013