Part One of Three: Whoa there, Kenny.

First, a disclaimer.  I am no cynic.  I believe, as self-described optimist Viggo Mortensen (in the December issue of Los Angeles magazine) says he believes

that historical facts and genuine, selfless courtesy eventually rise to the surface . . . It’s never over until it is over, and we can always do something good.

My personal brand of optimism includes a reliance on our own Constitutional system of “checks and balances.”  Congress makes the laws; the President, through the Secretaries of each Department, executes the laws; and the Courts interpret the laws.  Each branch acts as a check and balance on the power and authority of the others.  For this system to function, each branch needs to act in good faith.

The Secretary of the Department of Interior, Ken Salazar, on October 7, 2009, sent a three-page letter to Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (Democrat from Nevada) asking Senator Reid for his

help to better protect the wild horses that are proud symbols of America’s heritage.

Secty. Salazar then sketched out his proposal for “new approaches”

subject to Congressional approval and appropriations [that he] look[ed] forward to discussing with you and other members of Congress as we work together to protect and manage America’s “Living Legends.”

Leaving aside for a moment that the first sentence of Secty. Salazar’s letter fails to include the “wild burros” that he is also charged by law with protecting, and that his “new approaches” are a rehash of the “same old” ideas that have been kicked around for years by BLM employees and retirees, the letter clearly states that the Secretary will be looking to Congress for approval and appropriations.  This seems to suggest–at least to this naif–that the Secretary will wait to hear from Congress before he acts.

But on November 19-20, less than 45 days after Secty. Salazar’s letter to Congress,  the Nevada BLM Director Alan Shepherd rolled out the “proposal” as pretty much a “done deal” at a Resource Advisory Council (“RAC”) meeting in Elko, Nevada.  Shepherd’s “Nevada Wild Horse and Burro Strategy Update” included a presentation on the “Salazar Initiative” that all but put a period at the end of the sentence.  It is hard to believe–though not impossible–that the Secretary was able to discuss his initiative with any member of a Congress (embroiled in the issues of health care legislation and appropriations for military action in Afghanistan) in the two weeks or so that elapsed between Salazar’s letter to Congress and the publication of the Nevada BLM’s agenda rolling out the proposal.

By the way, you cannot find Shepherd’s “Strategy” update or the RAC agenda by going through the BLM’s “National Wild Horse & Burro Program” Page and clicking on “Secretary Salazar’s Initiative” or by going through the BLM’s Nevada webpage.  You need to go to the BLM’s “National” page, click on “Get Involved” in the sidebar, click on “Advisory Councils/Committees,” click on “Nevada”on the right side of the page that comes up, and then click into the Nevada “Statewide “Tri-RAC” meeting documents posted there.  I only found it because I was looking for it.

Public notice of the “RAC” meeting was published in the Federal Register (as required) on October 8, 2009, but does not mention the Wild Horse and Burro proposal/initiative.  The meeting agenda includes an entry for

BLM Nevada Wild Horse and Burro Strategy

but makes no specific reference to “Secretary Salazar’s Initiative.”  More on the “Strategy” document later.


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