On September 9, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board recommended the mass killing of up to 45,000 formerly wild horses and burros now confined to government holding facilities.
BLM’s Endgame: Slaughter
The vote is the culmination of an orchestrated effort on the part of the BLM to bring about the agency’s end game: legalizing slaughter of America’s wild horses and burros as an outlet for continued roundups and removals of wild horses from the range. In the world of the BLM and the public lands ranchers whose interests dominate agency policy, America’s cherished and federally protected mustangs are just another commercial livestock “product” to be rounded up and shipped off for commercial slaughter.
The American people do not support this view, yet the “citizen” advisory board voted to make it a reality. Only one member –Ginger Kathrens, Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation-- voted no.
Specifically the resolution states that the BLM should “offer all suitable animals in long and short term holding deemed unadoptable for sale without limitation or humane euthanasia. Those animals deemed unsuitable for sale should then be destroyed in the most humane manner possible.” Advisory board members know full well that there is no way to “humanely” kill 45,000 horses and that offering wild horses and burros for sale without restriction will result in their brutal slaughter in Canada and Mexico.
Citing a range “emergency,” members of the board who voted in favor of this mass killing included the board's public representative, Fred Woehl; June Sewing, who fills the board's wild horse advocacy position; and wildlife management representative Ben Masters. Masters also made the film Unbranded and presents himself as a mustang advocate.
As evidence of the emergency, the BLM took the board and the public on a staged “field trip” to the Antelope Valley HMA. Conveniently, the BLM took the board and members of the public to an area of the HMA that suffered from severe range degradation, including a cheat grass infestation. The agency claimed that wild horses were responsible for the condition of the range, and that livestock had not grazed there in seven years. However, the connection between historic livestock grazing in the area and the current range situation was not discussed. Nor did the agency take the board to areas of the Antelope Complex with heavy livestock grazing use, including Becky Springs where 4,000+ sheep are turned out every winter. The sheep mow down all the forage in the area, including the critical new growth of early spring.
In the absence of data on historic grazing levels, actual livestock grazing use in the Complex for the last five years, and maps of all the water sources in the HMA and fencing that restricts the movement and access to water for wild horses, the board could not have made an educated assessment about conditions in the area and impacts of wild horses there. This did not stop the members, however, from voting for a lethal solution based on their field trip observations.
If a range emergency does exist, it is one of the BLM’s own creation. The agency has stubbornly continued the unsustainable cycle of roundups and removals of wild horses and burros from the range, refusing to utilize scientifically-proven and long-available PZP fertility control and failing to adequately reduce livestock grazing despite historic drought conditions. Now the BLM would like to kill its way out of the problem it has created.
The BLM and its Advisory Board want 45,000 innocent wild horses to pay the price for the agency’s fiscal recklessness and woeful mismanagement. But the American people will not stand for this. Killing America’s mustangs or selling them for brutal slaughter in Mexico would be the ultimate betrayal of these iconic and historic animals whose ancestors helped build this country.
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