“For Many Years to Come” but Not for Good

An opinion piece published in the Reno Gazette Journal (RGJ) on August 1, 2010, by Bob Abbey, Director of the BLM, BLM’s goal is to enable healthy horses and burros to thrive on public lands, concludes with the usual blah, blah about the BLM’s commitment to “healthy herds on healthy land,” but adds a twist–an apparent time limit on the commitment:

Our commitment remains strong: to manage wild horses and burros so that healthy herds thrive on healthy rangelands for many years to come (emphasis added).

The 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act set no time limit on the commitment to of the Secretary of the Interior (and Agriculture) to protect wild, free-roaming horses and burros.  The pledge to protect was for perpetuity, not “for many years to come.”

The BLM also added a “new team” in recent months.  On July 14, 2010, the BLM issued News Release 2010-025, entitled “BLM Takes Emergency Actions to Provide Water to Wild Horses.”

Contacts: Heather Emmons , 775-861-6594 , heather_emmons@blm.gov
JoLynn Worley , 775-861-6515 , jolynn_worley@blm.gov

The BLM also has organized a review team consisting of BLM and independent experts to analyze the on-the-ground conditions of wild horses and the public rangelands. Team members include Mike Mottice, BLM Oregon/Washington Associate State Director (Team Leader); Tom Pogacnik, BLM California Deputy State Director, Natural Resources; Dr. Boyd Spratling DVM & BLM’s National Wild Horse Advisory Board; Eric Reid, Wild Horse/Burro Specialist, Fillmore, Utah; Dr. Klell Ekins, Equine DVM; and Robin Lohnes, American Horse Protection Association & BLM National Wild Horse Advisory Board.

I count five BLM employees or advisers and one veterinarian on the “team.”  Dr. Elkins (Kyle? Kelly? Klell?) is apparently going to carry the load for independent expertise all by him or her self.  I question why another ” team” is needed to “review” and “analyze” things when, according to Director Abbey’s words in the book Honest Horses by Paula Morin published in 2006 (by University of Nevada press):

(pp. 29-30) We know what’s important now.  We know the science required for monitoring.  We know what’s needed to form an appropriate analysis.  We know how to come up with [sic] the best numbers to determine what is sufficient relative to the ability of the resource to sustain that use, so as to have a balance between the number of wild horses and burros, the number of livestock allowed to graze under permits (and the conditions for their grazing), and the number of wildlife, which are so important to the habitat.

The BLM set “numbers” for wild horses and burros years ago based on outdated information and crap science.  No one has ever known what these numbers have to do with current range conditions, and now–four years later–this new “review” is not going to shed any additional light.  Just another distraction.  As they say in D.C., when you want to kill something, form a committee to study it.

Director Abbey also says

While we respect people’s passion for our nation’s wild horses, some activists have undertaken a coordinated campaign to mislead the public and distort the BLM’s intent.

I don’t know who the “we” is, but I will be willing to be it is not me.  Is it “we at the BLM?”  We, who are paid by “your” tax dollars?  We in the Administration? We who make decisions and plans in your best interest without consulting you?  While I understand the Director is frustrated by having to deal with people who are sometimes critical of BLM operations (but who are mostly asking “Where is the science?”), the two parts of his statement have nothing to do with each other.

The “passion” that people have for wild horses and burros is also a passion that people have for wildlife, for the health of the range lands, for freedom, for wide open spaces, for accountability, for transparency, for true collaboration, for real independence of thought and expertise, for all the things that make us proud to be Americans.  This passion has no parallel.

As for the second part, there are important questions to be asked about the BLM’s intent toward the wild horses and burros, but the questions arise from the BLM’s own communications, not from some “coordinated campaign” by “some activists.”  Here, again, are Director Abbey’s own words :

(p. 31 of Honest Horses) The adoption program is an important tool and we need to use it to the best of our ability, but we have to look at other options.


(p. 31) We need to agree that management must happen, determine the appropriate numbers, and then manage accordingly using all the available tools to do that.

and, finally:

(p. 33) If the public wants us to manage more efficiently within an existing budget, then we need more tools available to deal with the population issue.

The Director’s talk about “other options,” “all the available tools” and “more tools available,”  seems to be the writing on the wall for the WH & Bs.  I wish I could believe otherwise, but this is no distortion.  Tell me what in Director Bob Abbey’s own words has been misconstrued.

One Response to ““For Many Years to Come” but Not for Good”
  1. Lisa LeBlanc says:

    And I have to wonder what portion of the ‘campaign to judge the BLM in the court of Public Opinion’ is so wrong.
    Isn’t it the duty of the Public to question, to demand accountability, to know what’s going on within ANY Federal agency?
    Mr. Abbey’s comments, as construed by ME, lead me toward an opinion that he and others in similar positions would very much appreciate it if the Public would just sit down and shut up and let the Grown Ups handle things.
    No, no, no; can’t do it. My country, my agencies, my money. I once took a nap during the black period when the financial community was allowed to run my country, pretty much carte blanche, and look what happened while I was sleepin’.
    Never again.

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