I.G.H.A. / HorseAid's Bureau of Land Management News
"...so that all horses and ponies may lead
full and productive life, free from pain and abuse."
"Moon Wind", HorseAid rescued BLM mare
An Endangered Heritage?
Did you know that (as of 6/98) BLM "official" figures show that there are only about 42,000 wild horses and burros (approximately 35,000 horses & 7,000 burros) left on public lands (in 10 western states - confined by law to Herd Management Allotments or "HMA's")? However, HorseAid places this figure much lower (see our "BLM Report Card", below for more information).
The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 (the "Wild Horse Annie Act") declared that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West (in essence, an American "heritage"), and require protection under U.S. Federal law ("Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of lifeforms within the nation and enrich the lives of the American people." -- December 15, 1971 Congressional Declaration). Yet, there are currently less wild horses and burros on public lands in the Western states (their traditional ancestral range) than there were in 1971, when the Act was passed (approximately 172,000 horses and burros have been "adopted" since the adoption program was initiated).
The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for the protection of these animals, and yet, sadly and tragically, it may be this same agency which is responsible for their "fast disappearing from the American West". By revising policy at will, and circumventing the law when it suits them, some individuals within the Bureau of Land Management are bringing about the total destruction of this great American heritage largely in the interest of, and for, personal gain or to save the "integrity" of the agency itself.
The taxpayer funded Adopt-a-Horse program which the BLM administers (actually both the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service administer the adoption programs) was designed to remove the Mustangs from the "open" range, and place them into environments other than a rendering plant. Sadly, this is not always the case. And since it costs U.S. taxpayers $50,000 a week to maintain them, it's clear that neither the taxpayers nor the horses are faring well under the current arrangement.
Criminal investigations by several Bureau of Land Management law enforcement agents that would have exposed illegal activity in the Wild Horse and Burro Program, have been obstructed by numerous BLM managers and employees (see "The First Public Signs of Internal Dissent", and "Horses Criminal Case Shut Down" below). If something is not done, and done soon -- we stand a very good chance of forever losing this "living symbol of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West".
Is It Legal to Sell a BLM Wild Horse for Slaughter? The Los Angeles Times carried a story by Randy Herschaft in its March 23, 1997 edition that raises the question whether it is lawful for a person who has acquired title to a BLM wild horse by adoption to sell that horse for slaughter.
The U.S. Department of the Interior takes the position that it is not illegal for the title owner of a BLM horse to sell it for slaughter. Title is obtained after a one year probationary period, during which time the horse cannot be sold or given to another. In 1978, Congress amended the 1971 "Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act" to make adoptions of such animals easier. One provision in the 1978 amendment said that "no wild free-roaming horse or burro or its remains may be sold or transferred for consideration for processing into commercial products." Another provision making it a crime for an adopter to sell such a horse for slaughter was eliminated when the amendment was considered by Congress.
Since 1978, lawyers at the Department of the Interior have said that criminal sanctions in the wild horse law don't apply to adopted, titled animals because once the animals are adopted and a title is issued, they are no longer "wild" and the law says its criminal penalties only apply to "wild" horses. As a result, the Bureau of Land Management, which runs the $16-million-a-year program, has allowed thousands upon thousands of titled wild horses and burros to be slaughtered.
The statutory provisions under dispute have never been authoritatively interpreted. In 1987, a federal Court of Appeals ruled that the BLM could not give title to a person whom they knew intended to sell the horse for slaughter.
BLM News Items...
(from oldest to newest - updated on 10/10/03)
The First Public Signs of Internal Dissent
(from the HorseAid Update: --- 07/01/96)
Plan Sends Horses to Slaughter
(by Martha Mendoza Associated Press Writer - From AP Wire: --- 01/04/1997 11:03 EST)
Government to Investigate Horse-Adoption Program
(from USA Today: --- 01/08/97 - 01:01 AM ET )
A BLM Official Responds...
(Tom Pogacnik, Chief of the Bureau of Land Management's Wild Horse and Burro Program)
Report Acknowledges Slaughter of Wild Horses
(by Doug McInnis, Copyright 1997 - The New York Times)
Legislative Battle Brews over Nevada's Wild Horses
(by Martha Bellisle - Associated Press)
Horse Protection Program Moved
(by Jennifer Wing - Associated Press)
Audit Critical of BLM Accounting Practices
(from the HorseAid Update: - 02/20/97)
The Wild Horse Story No One Wants to Face
(from ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1997)
Horses Criminal Case Shut Down
(by Martha Mendoza - Associated Press)
Criminal Case Shut Down; Washington 'Obstruction' Blamed
(by The Associated Press)
Fixing The Wild Horse Program
Giobbé - HorseAid
co-founder, from ANIMAL
PEOPLE, April 1997)
Cheyenne Woman, AAEP Welfare Chair Selected...
BLM Offers Reward for Wild Horse Killers
Feds To Probe Deaths of Wild Horses
(by Martha Mendoza - AP National Writer)
Horse Adoption Program Overwhelmed...
Wild Horses Died of Stress
(by Sandra Chereb - Associated Press Writer)
Wild Horses: Are They Headed for Adoption or Death?
WHB Advisory Board Recommends Euthanasia
Is the BLM Looking for Another "Easy Way Out" in Utah?
Latest BLM Press Release (Utah)
A letter from Charissa...
Deadly Virus Found in Wild Horses
(by Kimberley Murphy - Associated Press Writer)
BLM Utah EIA Roundup and Recent Updates
Subcommittee May Allow Sale for Slaughter
Wild Horses & Burros Available Online
New Adoption Rules for Wild Horses
(by John M. Glionna - Times staff writer)
34 Wild Horses Shot - News & Views
(by Staci, Cindy, Kim, Donna, & Breana - IGHA/HorseAid Support Staff)
The "new" BLM?
(by Marty & John - IGHA/HorseAid
A HorseAid experience with the BLM
In 1996, our Kansas/Missouri HorseAid Chapter started to see ads running in the local papers advertising "Horses for Adoption - Send $15.00 for more info". Thinking it might be another horse "adoption" scam operation, we sent in the requested $15.00 to the P.O. Box listed in the ad. The ad had no organizational name listed on it.
Little did we know that although our guess was right (it WAS a sort of "horse adoption scam", at least in our opinion), the surprise was that the "scammers" turned out to be none other than our old nemesis: the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Our Coordinator for the Kansas/Missouri HorseAid Chapter -- under the direction of the main office in California -- made the following proposal to the Missouri BLM agent she was in contact with (after tracing that "blind" ad to the Bureau of Land Management): The Kansas/Missouri HorseAid Chapter (in conjunction with our Nebraska HorseAid Chapter) would take ALL the Mustangs the BLM currently had corralled in the area and place them into our HorseAid program at no cost to the BLM or the American taxpayer. Our only conditions were; that the horses would have to be donated to us at no cost, that we would hold full title to the animals, and that after the animals entered the HorseAid program, the BLM would not interfere with our placement of these animals into HorseAid approved adoptive homes (the BLM was free however, to do follow-up inspections of the animals whenever they wished).
Jean Smith (HorseAid Executive Committee Member), who then headed the Kansas/Missouri Chapter (and now heads our Texas Chapter), was notified by the BLM that this arrangement would NOT be acceptable to them, and that they had to "sell" the horses (even though it would actually seem to be in the best interest of the horses to donate them to us).
Our position is... that the BLM cannot sell what it does not own (the American Mustangs are the property of the American people). The BLM is only entrusted with the management of these herds following the best available methods consistent with public policy.
We don't think they have followed this mandate in the best interests of the horses or the American people.
Among the many reforms we have suggested to the BLM, are the following offers (both at no cost to the BLM or U.S. taxpayer):
1) We (IGHA/HorseAid) would undertake and underwrite a humane sterilization program to keep the Mustang stallion population (and therefore the entire wild horse herd population) to a manageable level by gelding yearlings in the field using a team of volunteer licensed veterinarians and a traveling field hospital. This would be done once a year (or as recommend by a select panel of veterinarians specializing in this field), and would be 100% underwritten by HorseAid, and if need be, corporate sponsorship (sponsorship would be limited to those corporate entities having no financial stake either way in the outcome of the wild Mustang management program). While we fully understand that indiscriminate management of the Mustang herds in this manner leaves little room for the "natural selection" process that nature intended, it is a far better system than the herd management system the BLM is currently using. Provisions would also be made to develop and maintain a more than adequate number of waterholes to support these "managed" herds in their mandated Herd Management Areas ("HMA's"). In times of "green" drought (where not enough good grazing is available), provisions for the importation of feed onto these ranges would also be undertaken.
2) We (IGHA/HorseAid) have offered to take ALL the Mustangs currently in BLM custody (and all future ones taken off the range) and place them into HorseAid approved adoptive homes (again, our only stipulations are that the horses would have to be donated to us at no cost, that we would hold full title to the animals, and that after the animals entered the HorseAid program the BLM would not interfere with our placement of these animals into adoptive homes -- however, the BLM would be allowed to do follow-up inspections of the BLM animals they donated to us whenever they wished). Since BLM Burros are currently being successfully rescued in small numbers by the "Wild Burro Rescue" group, we would only concern ourselves with the wild horses. And since we do not allow the sale or commercial use of any HorseAid horse, this would ensure their continual safety. All horses entered into the HorseAid program become, and remain, the property of IGHA/HorseAid throughout the horse's life (we always maintain a majority ownership interest in the animal. All our horses are monitored by us for life, and the horses in the program are also branded with our registered "No Kill" brand as an added safeguard.
To date, we have had no "official" response on either offer.
We were amongst the first to bring up issues seemingly not to be in the best interest of the Mustangs or the American people (see "The First Public Signs of Internal Dissent") and in the beginning, were almost solitary in asking for outside investigations into this Federally sanctioned form of horse abuse. Luckily, we have been joined by many animal rights/welfare groups and even the mainstream media in exposing alleged abuses with the BLM "wild" Mustang Adopt-A-Horse program. Yet, even with all this scrutiny, many abuses still exist and reform of the entire program is sorely needed.
A mandatory requirement of all BLM Mustang adoptions must be an enforceable agreement with the adopter (no matter who that adopter is) that NO Mustang adopted from the BLM may be sold for slaughter -- ever. Further, we urge Congress to amend the Act to include a provision to make it a Federal offense to process for slaughter any Mustang branded with the BLM identifying freeze marks.
What are the U.S. Congress and the Bush/Cheney administration doing about the continual and much reported abuses at the BLM (a part of the Department of the Interior)? So far -- nothing.
The BLM "management" of the wild Mustang herds (which includes wild burros) is Federally mandated by the 1971 "Wild Horse Annie Act". However, the program is perilously close to being unfunded at this point. And unless the Federal government takes immediate steps to reform and fund at least the adoption portion of the program, we will not have to wonder if the horses are going to slaughter, but how many are left that haven't.
HorseAid implores President Bush to take a personal interest in the plight of this great American heritage, and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the American Mustang is preserved for further generations of Americans to enjoy.
"...Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of lifeforms within the nation and enrich the lives of the American people."
(1971 Congressional Declaration)
If you believe the Mustangs should be protected against further exploitation, please e-mail the President.
(as a convenience, you may wish to copy the above highlighted text and paste it into your e-mail)
BLM Adoption Information & State Offices
The "new" BLM?
It's been about three years (2000 - 2003) since we had any real dealings with the BLM, as Horseaid just has not had the budget to pursue BLM irregularities in those ensuing years.
Almost all our previous dealings with the BLM have been less than stellar (not on our part), and HorseAid often felt like we had hit the proverbial brick wall (more than once) when dealing with them.
Recently (10/03), while investigating a situation that was reported to us involving a large herd of BLM horse that were supposedly being sold to slaughter sources, we had the pleasure to deal with a BLM official that was kind, understanding, and really cared about the situation. In our telecom with her, she proved to be very candid and forthcoming in assessing the report she had received, and committed to mobilizing BLM resources should that report prove to be factual.
That BLM official is Debora Godbey, Wild Horse & Burro Program Specialist, and she is a huge asset to both the Bureau of Land Management and the animals under the BLM's control.
We have a feeling that had Ms. Godbey been available to us in past years, the BLM "problem" would have been solved many years ago.
Let's hope that Ms. Godbey is not just an isolated example in the BLM hierarchy, and that the BLM has reinvented itself in its dealings with outside organizations.
All of us rescue organizations have the BLM Mustangs best interest at heart, it's nice to see the BLM having the same interest for a change.
Due to the cessation of our normal in-house funding beginning in 2000, HorseAid has not been able to challenge the BLM on some of their policies and projected programs dealing with the "Wild Horse Problem" that we believed to be "not in the horses interest".
The solution to the BLM vs. the wild Mustangs issue, is for YOU to get involved. Find out what is going on that you like, and what you absolutely abhor, and then make your feelings known to your Congressional representatives. While the wild horses are the legacy and legal property of Americans everywhere, it is Congress that will ultimately decide their fate.
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