Wild horse preservation coalition hails resignation of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar

Washington, DC (January 16, 2013). . . The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), a national coalition of more than 50 organizations, today hailed the news that Ken Salazar will step down from his post as Secretary of the Interior in March.

"We'll look back at Ken Salazar's tenure as Interior Secretary as the beginning of the end of the federal government's wild horse and burro roundup program,”  AWHPC Director Suzanne Roy said this morning. “By doubling down on the cruel and wasteful policy of rounding up and stockpiling wild horses and burros, and refusing to listen to public concerns, he rallied tens of thousands of Americans behind safe and cost effective alternatives. This renewed support for America’s wild horses and burros is a powerful force for change, which the new Secretary of the Interior will have to recognize.”

She continued, “President Obama now has the opportunity to appoint a Secretary of the Interior who will truly guard America’s unique public lands legacy – including our wild horses and burros. We urge the President to choose an Interior Secretary who will place the public interest over commercial interests that seek to use and abuse our public lands and erase America’s iconic mustangs from the Western landscape forever."

During Secretary Salazar's tenure, the Interior Department has rounded up and removed over 35,000 wild horses from Western public lands. Only a third of these horses have been adopted. Most captured horses are warehoused in holding facilities. Currently, there 50,000 wild horses in government holding facilities while fewer than 32,000 remain in the wild. Wild horses are removed by the thousands from public lands to make room for taxpayer-subsidized livestock grazing. Private livestock exceed wild horses on BLM lands by at least 50-1. (More information here.)

In October 2009, Salazar announced his plan to reform the wild horse and burro program. However, the promised changes were not implemented, and cost-effective, humane solutions – such as birth control – were given only token attention.

Salazar, a Colorado rancher, ran an Interior Department closely allied with the livestock industry, which views mustangs and competition for cheap, taxpayer-subsidized livestock grazing and seeks their removal from public lands. 

In August 2011, The Atlantic exposed the fact that Salazar’s deputy Sylvia Bacca had encouraged a powerful Wyoming grazing association to sue her own department as a mechanism to secure funds to remove wild horses from public lands where the livestock growers want to graze sheep.

In September 2012,  ProPublica revealed that the Interior Department had sold “truckload after truckload” of federally protected wild horses to a known kill buyer, Tom Davis. Davis, a livestock hauler who purchases horses and ships them to slaughter in Mexico, just happens to be Salazar’s neighbor in Colorado. The Interior Department’s sales of captured mustangs to Davis increased dramatically after he became Secretary in 2009. On Election Day 2012, Salazar threatened to punch out the journalist who wrote the ProPublica story.  

In October 2012, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign delivered a petition signed by 25,130 American citizens calling on Secretary Salazar to halt federal wild horse roundups and implement policies that will ensure that no federally-protected wild horse are sent to slaughter. To date, the Secretary has failed to respond to the petition. As well, the Secretary has ignored hundreds of thousands of public comments calling for a halt to roundups and for implementation of alternatives, including birth control, to manage wild horses and burros on the range.