By Pat Raia, The Horse
December 16, 2016
In the wake of President-Elect Donald Trump's Dec. 15 nomination of U.S. House Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT) as Secretary of the Interior, some wild horse advocates are considering how the Montana Congressman might influence the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and its management of wild horses and burros.
The BLM is an agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act federally protects wild horses and burros residing in Western states and places them under BLM jurisdiction.
Zinke is Montana's sole representative to the U.S. House. He served 23 years in the U.S. Navy and, in 2014, became the first Nary SEAL veteran elected to the House.
In 2009 while serving in the Montana State Senate, Zinke voted in support of a bill that would have legalized horse processing plant development in that state.
Shortly after Zinke's nomination was announced, some horse advocates questioned whether the Congressman would protect the wild herds under his department's jurisdiction.
Long-time horse advocate Jerry Finch, president and founder of Habitat for Horses, in Hitchcock, Texas, believes Zinke's appointment could be dangerous wild horses and burros.
“Rep. Ryan Zinke … supports state control of public land, which means the ranchers will have an easy way to remove all the wild horses and replace them with cattle, (and) he has opposed plans of the Environmental Protection Agency for clean water and clean power,” Finch opined. “All in all, we are not just taking a step back. We are running back to the ‘70s, an era where wild horses had no protection and the earth was here to satisfy our every need, without any thought of the future.”
Meanwhile, Suzanne Roy, director of the California-based American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, is more hopeful.
“President-Elect Trump has promised to restore government to the people (and) we trust that his administration will follow the will of the American people to protect America's wild horses and burros as national symbols of freedom and America's greatness,” she opined. “While we are concerned about some aspects of Rep. Zinke's record regarding horse protection, we are hopeful that he will be willing to address the ongoing federal mismanagement of the wild horse program in a manner that is consistent with President-Elect Trump's stated commitment to the American people.”
Zinke’s spokeswoman Heather Swift was unavailable for comment.
Meanwhile, Zinke's nomination must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before he can take office. Those hearings are expected to take place after Trump's Jan. 20, 2017, inauguration.