By Steven Long, Horseback Magazine (reprinted with permission)
U.S. Senator Eyes Removing Agency’s Mustang Oversight
HOUSTON, (Horseback) – The hasty labor day "gather" of the iconic equine star of the PBS "Nature" series, Cloud, has sparked interest and consternation from coast to coast as wild horse lovers rally to put a halt to Bureau of Land Management "gathers" on the nation’s public lands.
Several horses, including Cloud, were released lame after being chased down a 5,000 foot mountain by a low flying helicopter. [See the video below.] The famed Mustang’s popular image has been celebrated in two best selling reproductions by Breyer. A third set of the collectables will be released in time for the Christmas shopping season.
Only 120 members of the herd will be allowed by the BLM to remain in this area of Pryor Mountain wilderness encompassing nearly 40,000 acres. The BLM currently claims to hold 33,000 horses captured in gathers in holding pens. No outside agency has been allowed to do a census.
Protests are planned for a meeting of the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board in Washington September 28-29.
Louisiana Sen. Mary Landieu, a horsewoman, said that if the BLM doesn’t change its ways and stop the gathers and helicopter stampedes she is considering supporting legislation to remove management of wild horses from the agency.
"She’s really fed up with the BLM right now and she’s thought about maybe possibly moving the (wild horse) program from them to another agency," the Landrieu aide told Horseback Magazine. "That goes to show her frustration with how this program is mismanaged.
"The GAO put out a report last year citing the utter mismanagement of this program," she said. "They spend three fourths of the BLM budget on this program, and as you know, they run a whole slew of other programs."
Landrieu serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with provides oversight for America’s public lands.
Key senators besides Landrieu who will influence the nation’s wild horse policy are New Mexico’s Jeff Bingeman, California’s Diane Feinstein, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Navada, the aide said.
Reid, an enabler of the hated Burns Amendment which removed protection from wild horses has expressed concerned regarding the Restoring our American Mustangs Act, or ROAM. In the past the senator, who polls indicate is highly unpopular in his home state, has been no friend of wild horses. He is in a tight race for re-election.
In minutes of meetings of BLM managers secreted out of the agency earlier in the year, discussions of the euthanasia of thousands of horses captured in gathers were held. The talks were prompted by an agency running out of funds to operate its wild horse program. In the discussions, the prospect of psychiatric counseling of veterinarians who would perform the killing of innocent horses was discussed. The disposal of thousands of horse carcasses was also studied by the agency.
When news of the planned equicide leaked it provoked a tidal wave of anger at the agency among horse lovers and the general public prompting the agency to put the killing on hold.
Critics say wild horses have lived off the land just like moose, elk, antelope, big horn sheep, and deer without serious depletion of the herds for hundreds of years because of natural selection. Yet despite their wild status in fact and American lore, the agency doesn’t classify the equines as wildlife which would enjoy protection.
The aide, who declined to be identified, said the likely agency the senator would target for new management responsibilities for wild horses should Landrieu move in that direction would be the National Park Service because of an excellent record handling a limited number of wild horses that agency already oversees.
The BLM, along with the U.S. Forest Service, is currently required by law to manage wild horses on public land.