By Pat Raia, The Horse
September 15, 2016
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) says it has no plans to euthanize thousands of wild horses currently held in short- and long-term holding facilities. The agency came under fire earlier this month after wild horse advocates reported that the BLM National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board voted on a referendum relative to the fate of some horses in holding that could be deemed unadoptable.
The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 protects wild horses and burros and places them under BLM jurisdiction. The agency estimates that 67,000 wild horses currently reside on public lands in 10 Western states, and another 45,000 animals reside in short- and long-term holding facilities. The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board is an independent panel that makes recommendations to the BLM regarding wild horse and burro management.
In a Sept. 9 written statement, Ginger Kathrens, executive director of the Colorado Springs-based Cloud Foundation and one of nine advisory board members, said she was the sole dissenting vote when the board passed a resolution concerning the euthanasia of wild horses residing in federal holding facilities.
Tom Gorey, BLM spokesman, said the recommendation on which the Advisory Board voted pertained to BLM stipulations under the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, which gives the agency the right to sell wild horses “without limitation.”
The Sept. 9 recommendation from the advisory board said the "BLM should follow stipulations of the Wild Horse and Burro Act by offering all suitable animals in long- and short-term holding deemed unadoptable for sale without limitation or humane euthanasia. Those animals deemed unsuitable for sale should then be destroyed in the most humane manner possible."
News of the vote has since spread rapidly online.
In response, Gorey said, the BLM issued a written statement on Sept. 12 about the advisory board vote.
“The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board is an independent panel [composed] of members of the public that make recommendations to the Bureau of Land Management regarding its management of wild horses and burros,” the BLM statement said. “The BLM is committed to having healthy horses on healthy rangelands. We will continue to care for and seek good homes for animals that have been removed from the range. Currently, there are more than 67,000 wild horses and burros on public rangelands, and the BLM is caring for nearly 50,000 animals in off-range corrals.”
The agency’s website also noted that, since fiscal 2010, Congress has placed riders on appropriations bills that prevent the BLM from destroying healthy wild horses and burros or selling such animals for commercial processing.
In a Sept. 14 response to the BLM’s statement, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign said the BLM had “come to the right decision” in rejecting the advisory board recommendation, but criticized the agency's wild horse management program, saying, “The BLM is on a collision course with disaster as long as it continues this gross mismanagement of wild horses and burros and the public lands on which they live.”
The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, which includes members from various interest groups, meets regularly to discuss issues and advise the BLM. Each year, the BLM requests nominations for the advisory board from individuals, national organizations, and associations involved with and interested BLM and U.S. Forest Service management of wild horses and burros on public lands.