Pickens “Wild Horse Eco-Sanctuary:” Good Enough for Government Work?

Wild Horses in Holding

LARKSPUR, Ca. — Madeleine Pickens recently announced that after “three days” of meetings “in Sacramento [California] and Washington, D.C.” with the Director of the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Bob Abbey, Deputy Director of the BLM Mike Pool and “the Wild Horse and Burro team,” the BLM has “officially agreed to support going forward with the development of the wild horse sanctuary for the horses in holding.”

In a September 16, 2010, post to her weblog entitled “A Dream Come True,” Pickens claims to have the go-ahead from the BLM to start a “pilot program” of establishing a sanctuary on private land for 1,000 horses, a program that she claims would eventually include all horses in holding.  The BLM had not confirmed the announcement by Pickens as of September 18, 2010.  The last press release from the BLM to address the concept of a private sanctuary such as that suggested by Mrs. Pickens is dated March 16, 2009, and claims that “Congress would have to amend the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act [sic]” (“the 1971 Act”) to make her proposal a possibility.  The provision in the 1971 Act that the BLM cited as posing a barrier to Pickens’ plan is the one providing that the free-roaming equids “are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public land.”  The BLM interprets this provision in the 1971 Act as follows:

The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act restricts animals to the areas where they were found roaming when the Act was passed in 1971. Unfortunately, none of the BLM grazing allotments that Mrs. Pickens proposes for her sanctuary were areas where wild horses roamed in 1971.

The “Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971,” that was passed by unanimous vote of Congress and signed by President Nixon into law on December 15, 1971, was a promise to the American people that free-roaming equids in the Western United States would be “protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands,” showing a clear intent to protect the equids from capture, branding, harassment and death, in their free-roaming state, in the West, where they were found.

In the years leading up to the Act and ever since, however, interests within and outside the BLM/DOI, including but not limited to grazing, oil and gas, development and mining interests, have deliberately and systematically attempted to weaken the clear intent of the Act to the extent that most of the animals that the Act sought to protect have since been captured, branded, harassed and killed by the very agency (and its contractors) that was charged with the protection of the free-roaming equids.  The BLM and interested parties who want to see the free-roaming equids gone from public lands have attempted to weaken the Act by selective enforcement of its protective provisions, by amending the Act to add language of “management and control” such as a 1978 provision that “excess animals must be removed,” and by encouraging lawsuits from “friendlies” such as the Mountain States Legal Foundation and others, including a lawsuit from the state of Wyoming that led to a consent decree that the BLM and the agency’s lawyers at the Department of Justice all but solicited.

A “requirement” that the BLM “remove excess horses” was designed and promoted to Congress by the enemies of the free-roaming equids, and was added to the 1971 Act by amendment as part of the Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978, an Act that was intended to correct the worst of the range land damage done by commercial grazing of “food” or “production” animals such as cattle and sheep, but was subverted by enemies of the free-roaming equids to be used against them.  It is beyond irony that this provision is now cited by BLM Director Bob Abbey as the reason a moratorium on hazing, harassment and capture of free-roaming equids by BLM contractors is “untenable.”

Abbey also claims a moratorium would be “devastating to the health of public rangelands.”  Neither claim by Director Abbey is supported by facts, and the incontrovertible evidence of this falsehood is in the words of his own boss, the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar.

In a May 3, 201o, letter to Senator Barbara Boxer of California, Secretary Salazar admitted that “most BLM offices” base current estimates of wild horse and burro populations on unreliable counting techniques (direct or “census” count by helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft sighting), and that “new policy” incorporating “new techniques” has not yet been implemented.  The BLM’s determination that any free-roaming equids are “excess” is thus based on unreliable data, by the Secretary of the Interior’s own admission, and can not be used to determine range land health where free-roaming animals graze.

A moratorium on hazing, harassment and capture of free-roaming equids still living on federal public land is not only tenable but essential in light of the unreliability of existing techniques used by the BLM to survey and count.  No court of law can give discretion to a determination of “excess” animals by an agency that itself admits it does not know how many free-roaming equids are on the range:  “Your honor, we do not know how many horses and burros are out there, but we are sure there are too many.”

A moratorium–accompanied by an open, free-ranging, scientifically-based analysis and discussion among stake holders, of the 1971 Act and consequences, including a timetable to restore public lands removed from use by free-roaming equids and other free-roaming animals, whether called “wild,” “estray” or “feral”–must come first.

First, a moratorium.  Then, and only then, we can talk about a plan for the equids in holding.


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Comments
2 Responses to “Pickens “Wild Horse Eco-Sanctuary:” Good Enough for Government Work?”
  1. sandra longley says:

    Absolutely! I don’t even know the scope or content of madelines proposal, but i do know there will be no herd structure, stallions or reproduction allowed..some say better her hands than BLM hands -and while that may be true..the wild horses are owed their birthright..to live and die on the public lands in a wild and free roaming state- as the american taxpayers representitives designated..these our the publics wild horses and land..not the BLMs..I would hope madelines plan starts with the old horses-who suffer the most from being continually moved from place to place around the country..having said that, I still have questions that relate to the fact that T. Boone Pickens is among the leaders of energy developments across the country, and he as are others in that industry, beneficiarys of wild horses being removed from public lands to facilitate development of energy and mining..many of those projects involve foreign companies.I am realistically pursing the goal of having all wild horses returned to their lands and lands that have been..sold off by the BLM replaced with other lands-suitable for habitation..not some bald mountain peak somewhere..If the BLM had managed my inheritance in such a negligent and criminal fashion- I would be in court having them removed and filing criminal charges-Once the federally protected species are removed-there is nothing in the way to stop the theft of our public lands, and all we are left with ???a handful of treasured landscapes and millions of acres of fenced off and patrolled developments that stuff the coffers of other countries

  2. sandra longley says:

    I would also like to point out..this is exactly what the BLM envisioned would happen in their “Alternative Management Options” Manefesto..That the american public would step up to rescue the horses from the fate BLM envisioned-with their dollars and land..they are now choking on having to pay people to do it..but still at considerable expense to those individuals..Why the american public is not already ripping their limbs off is beyond me…but I see some really angry taxpayers on the horizon –who are not horse advocates..and its our job to reach them with this information.

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