By Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, January 25, 2013
Wild horse advocates today announced a campaign urging President Obama to nominate Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) to replace Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who plans to retire by the end of March.
The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign said Grijalva, a longtime mustang advocate, is the best candidate to reform the Bureau of Land Management's costly wild horse and burro program.
The group created a website, www.AppointRaul.com, where supporters can sign a petition to the president.
"The President has a critical decision to make for the future of our public lands and natural resources, including our wild horses and burros," AWHPC Director Suzanne Roy said in a statement. "After the failed tenure of Secretary Salazar, which included an expansion of the out-of-control and inhumane wild horse and burro program, the president can appoint someone who will stand up to the special interests and truly guard America's unique public lands legacy."
Although Grijalva was on Obama's short list for secretary in 2008, his nomination is considered a long shot this year against other nominees who would be easier to confirm in the Senate. In addition, Grijalva has said he is not seeking the nomination.
Other possible picks include several former Western Democratic governors, Interior Deputy Secretary David Hayes or Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry, who is a former high-ranking Interior official. The White House has not indicated when it will choose a nominee.
AWHPC joins a large contingent of liberal environmental groups that have also backed Grijalva for secretary, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth and Alliance for the Wild Rockies (E&ENews PM, Dec. 10, 2012).
Grijalva in 2009 was an original co-sponsor of a bill that would ban horse euthanasia, expand the use of fertility control and provide up to 19 million acres of additional lands for wild horse herds in the West, among other provisions. It passed the House but died in the Senate.
Grijalva has also penned letters to Salazar urging BLM to temporarily halt plans to round up herds and spay or geld wild horses, garnering support from wild horse advocates.
Those positions would run afoul of most Western Republican lawmakers, whose ranching constituents argue that wild horses can overgraze the range and damage soils and watersheds if left unchecked.
BLM, which is tasked with both protecting and containing wild horses in the West, has struggled to rein in the cost of its wild horse program as adoptions of the animals fail to keep up with their rapid reproduction. The agency has stepped up its use of fertility drugs but has been forced to place tens of thousands of horses in holding facilities, angering horse and taxpayer advocates alike.