Government can’t find room for America’s wild horses

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The Miami Herald,,SEAN COCKERHAM, MCCLATCHY WASHINGTON BUREAU, May 9, 2013

Horses move through a series of pens at a preview for buyers at the Mustang Million wild horse adoption auction sponsored by the Bureau of Land Management and the Mustang Heritage Foundation in Fort Worth, Texas RODGER MALLISON / FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM/MCT

Horses move through a series of pens at a preview for buyers at the Mustang Million wild horse adoption auction sponsored by the Bureau of Land Management and the Mustang Heritage Foundation in Fort Worth, Texas RODGER MALLISON / FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM/MCT

WASHINGTON — Wild horses, descended from the steeds of Spanish explorers, Native Americans, U.S. cavalry and ranch strays, are being offered for auction this weekend in Fort Worth, Texas, as part of a desperate effort by a federal government that can’t figure out what to do with them.

The Interior Department, in roundups that outraged wild horse advocates, has taken nearly 50,000 wild horses off their Western rangelands and paid private ranchers to put them in corrals and pastures, largely in Kansas and Oklahoma. More of America’s wild horses are now in holding facilities than roaming the wild.

The Bureau of Land Management says the roundups are needed because the swelling horse populations are too much for the wild range to sustain. Wild horse advocates counter that it’s really about favoring the interests of ranchers whose cattle and sheep graze upon the public lands.

Everyone agrees the situation can’t go on. The Bureau of Land Management is running out of space in the holding facilities and can’t find more. At the same time, the cost to taxpayers of the wild horse and burro program has nearly doubled in the past four years to $75 million, with more than half going to holding costs.

“There is no quick fix,” said BLM spokesman Tom Gorey. “The options are limited because we’re not going to put down healthy horses for which there is no adoption demand, even though the law authorizes it.”

The Bureau of Land Management could find homes for only about 2,600 wild horses and burros last year – less than half than in 2005. Arranging adoptions has become harder with the rough economy, as horses are considered a luxury item, Gorey said. There’s also a glut of cheap domesticated horses on the market since the closure of the nation’s last horse slaughterhouse six years ago, he said. Such domesticated horses tend to be more attractive to buyers than the Interior Department’s untrained wild horses, Gorey said.

The Bureau of Land Management pays the Mustang Heritage Foundation $3.75 million to train some of the wild horses and put them up for auction, a program that led to 868 of the adoptions last year. The foundation is in the midst of an adoption event at the John Justin Arena in Fort Worth, with 150 of the horses going for bid Friday and the same number Sunday. The average sale price is under $500.

Adoptions last year, though, represented just 5 percent of the wild horses in government-funded holding facilities. The Bureau of Land Management’s wild horse and burro advisory board said the number of horses in holding has ballooned to the point that it “threatens the health and welfare of the horses and the entire program.”

The board recommended removing the ovaries of mares in the field as a population control method. The BLM is considering it, but wild horse advocates call the procedure cruelly invasive and unnecessary.

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AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
7 Comments
  • Margaret

    One of the main contributors to this problem is called HOARDING.

    The answers are pretty simple. Ranchers MUST share resources as things were designed. No more arguements over feral/wild. Ranchers love to call the horses feral as a way to get to advocates. The other issue is once labeled feral the horse has no federal protection. That’s why the ranchers love to call them feral.

    Honestly who cares? The horses predate you and me. If the horses were human possession is 9/10’s of the law. They were on the land.

    Today at Costco the man in front of me brought all these racks of lambs. All I could wonder was was horse meat somehow hidden in that meat. I have no desire to buy or eat the stuff. Plus I wonder how sanitary the meat packing plant was when all of that was package…

    Parents need to teach their kids the value of sharing.

    May 10, 2013
  • sherriey

    duh…can you say remove the dam cows and sheep from the Mustang’s allotted land?????
    then there would be room for them…..!
    (can’t fix stupid!!!!)

    GREED, GREED, GREED! GOV GREED!

    May 10, 2013
  • Debbie Tracy

    It’s really this simple the Cattleman’s Ass. Farm Bureau BIG AG. are running everything, anything they want they get, plain, simple and true…. NO ONE has stepped up and set them straight, and until they do it will continue, just like ALL of them in horse slaughter all of it…. I THINK they all must be running this country makes yeah wonder??????

    May 10, 2013
  • Arlene

    The BLM has created their problem,if they would have left the Mustangs where they belong in the first place , their job is and has always been to Preserve and Protect the Mustangs, what a complete fail the BLM is!!!! They have not ever proven there was a problem and if there was ever a problem, they saw a chance to make money on the Icons they were suppose to be protecting and preserving and the American taxpayers were paying for, and with greed and corruption in their minds , created a Horror beyond belief for the Mustangs, they maimed and murdered them unmercifully aborted mares in foal, they ran them off cliffs, chased them for their own folly, cattle prodded them…… the BLM has been nothing but a problem ………The Mustangs are American Treasures, whom the American people realized that their contributions are Phenomenally a worth for which we can never repay the Mustangs for , along with Congress voted collectively that in 1971 they were to enjoy their deserved FREEDOM and Protection !!! Nothing here has changed I and all others demand that the BLM be removed from any duties for which they have already made an awful mess of…………Our Mustangs have proven the extreme connection with the environment and all wildlife……….. And at any cost should be returned to the Range where they belong………………………..Immediately!!!

    May 11, 2013
  • Sue

    Don’t we all love the comment about a “glut” of cheap domestic horses because of the closing of the slaughter plants!!!

    May 11, 2013
  • Daryl

    Same old grap just a different day for it to be written. The cattle and sheep are the ones who should leave the horses ground and let the horses live free, this is what people fought for and got it for them, just to have it taken away by some one else. To many horses in a small area is not good for them of course, to put them to sleep just because you need more room for them to bring in more is un-thinkable .

    May 11, 2013