New Interior Secretary Can Turn Around Broken Wild Horse Program
Those of you who regularly watch our good friend Jane Velez-Mitchell’s show on HLN may have seen me last night in a brief segment talking about a potentially dangerous situation for 1,800 captive wild horses at a Bureau of Land Management facility near Reno, Nev., where temperatures have been reaching record highs exceeding 100 degrees this month. Despite the fact that the BLM requires those adopting wild horses from the agency to provide adequate shelter, there is no shelter for the horses at the Palomino Valley National Adoption Center. Our request is hardly unprecedented, since the BLM has installed shelters at other facilities, like the one in Ridgecrest, CA.
After several wild horse advocates brought this matter to our attention, we wrote a letter to the BLM, urging the agency to develop a shelter to provide some protection from the sun at the Palomino Valley National Adoption Center. Thus far, the BLM has installed a sprinkler system, but no shelter. Newly confirmed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell can take action to show she’s serious about reform of this program.
While an important welfare issue for the horses, the situation unfolding at Palomino Valley is yet another symptom of a broken horse and burro program. The central problem is that the BLM continues to round up and remove thousands of wild horses and to aggregate more horses than it can responsibly care for at short-term and long-term holding facilities, all at an enormous expense to taxpayers and to horses, and in defiance of the spirit of the federal law designed to protect them.
We have only about 40,000 wild horses and burros living on our public lands today, but we have almost 50,000 in holding facilities. This is not what the drafters of the original Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act could ever have imagined, and the BLM knows that it’s removing more animals from the range than the agency can possibly hope to adopt out to loving homes – yet the round up and removal treadmill persists. This is the larger problem that Secretary Jewell confronts.
The only way the BLM will ever right the sinking ship that has become its Wild Horse & Burro Program is by immediately implementing the recommendations of a report prepared by the National Academies of Sciences’ National Research Council panel which, among its key findings, urged the agency to end its reliance on short-sighted roundups, and instead, to keep horses on the range while humanely limiting reproduction through the application of a contraceptive vaccine. And just recently, The HSUS also developed and presented a proposal to the agency for a bold new program that meets the challenges of the budget, the horse population and land-use issues head on.
We are ready to work with the BLM to address its continuing troubles in this area and to solve them for the long term. But in the meantime, the BLM needs to do right by the animals in its care and the best place to start is by providing the 1,800 wild horses at PVC with the shelter they so desperately need.
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