I.G.H.A. / HorseAid's Bureau of Land Management News
Horse Protection Program Moved
By JENNIFER WING
(Associated Press Writer)
WASHINGTON (AP) ----- 02/11/1997 20:19 EST
Management of a federal program intended to protect wild horses and burros but accused of allowing many of them to be abused or even slaughtered has been relocated from Nevada to Washington.
The Bureau of Land Management on Tuesday reassigned management of the U.S. Wild Horse and Burro Program from Reno to BLM national headquarters, effective immediately.
Sylvia Baca, BLM interim director, vowed in a written statement to ensure that "the animals under our protection are cared for properly and treated humanely.''
The Associated Press reported last month that of the 165,000 animals the $16 million-a-year program has corralled since it began 25 years ago, BLM officials don't know what has happened to more than 32,000 that were adopted.
Horses and burros that are labeled "excess'' are rounded up from public lands in 10 Western states. Adopters can purchase them for $125 each.
The law requires the bureau to follow up on an animal's welfare during its first year of adoption to ensure the animals aren't abused or slaughtered. Pending proof the owner has properly cared for the animal during that time, the federal government awards the owner a title to it.
But in at least 20 percent of the adoptions, AP has learned that the BLM failed to follow that requirement and lost track of the animals. Furthermore, former BLM employees accused bureau officials of falsifying and back dating records to cover up the problems.
Wild Horse and Burro Program chief Thomas Pogacnik has estimated that 90 percent of the animals eventually land in North American slaughterhouses, saying, "At some point the critters do have to come off the range.''
The allegations have prompted the Justice Department to assist in an investigation of the program. In addition, the federal government is expected to release two audits and two reports on the program to Congress this year.
The relocation Tuesday is one of 20 recommendations to BLM by an emergency evaluation team of government officials, horse and burro protection groups, rangeland users and academics. The team was organized in August in the wake of severe drought in 1996 and is charged with mapping out a long-range plan for the program.
Baca said the BLM would continue to review the program and make more recommendations.
"I am determined to see the BLM's mission carried out effectively and responsibly,'' she said in the written statement.
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