This is a call to action! I am writing to inform the public and to ask all Americans to hold the Bureau of Land Management accountable for protecting wild horses and burros. We must stand up and speak up for the voiceless — and we must speak up now.
In 1950, Velma Johnston, also known as "Wild Horse Annie," followed a truck overcrowded with bloody and injured wild horses on their way to a slaughterhouse. So moved by the gruesome sight, she began a lifelong effort to ensure the humane treatment of wild horses and burros that eventually resulted in federal protection of these animals.
With the support of the American public, Congress unanimously passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 that declared wild horses and burros "living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West."
Now, language in the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) 2018 budget could spell the demise of these national icons. Ironically, the BLM is the same agency that was originally charged with "preserving and protecting" them. Clearly, they have failed to do so.
If approved by Congress, the budget will allow thousands of federally-protected wild horses to be killed or sold for slaughter. All to save $10 million — the cost of three of President Trump's weekend trips to his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida, courtesy of American taxpayers, or the same amount that the federal government spent to develop video games to fight adolescent obesity.
In truth, the BLM has created its own problems through decades of mismanagement. The result is ballooning fiscal pressures and tens of thousands of horses and burros languishing in government holding pens.
But it's not too late for the BLM to change course. In 2013, the National Academy of Sciences outlined economically-sound and workable recommendations that would humanely and effectively manage wild-herd populations on our Western public rangelands.
The BLM must be held accountable and follow these recommendations. America's wild horses and burros should not pay for the BLM's willful arrogance with their lives.
Taking inspiration from Wild Horse Annie, we must continue the fight to ensure that our wild horses and burros remain wild and free for future generations. It's time to tell the BLM, "No more."
We need to insist that our wild horse and burro populations are protected or they will be gone forever. Contact: President Donald Trump at www.whitehouse.gov/contact or 202-456-1111, Sen. Cory Gardner at http://www.gardner.senate.gov/contact-cory/email-cory or 202-224-5941, and Sen. Michael Bennet at http://www.bennet.senate.gov/?p=contact/contact or 202-224-5852.
Brenda Love Bennett lives in Boulder and is guardian for her 8-year-old Shire draft horse, Jack.