By THE CLOUD FOUNDATION
To The Desert Independent
June 22, 2016
WASHINGTON, DC – Ginger Kathrens, Founder and Volunteer Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation has documented and advocated for wild horse herds for over 22 years. Known as the Jane Goodall of wild horses, Kathrens’ documentation of Cloud the Wild Stallion represents the only continuing chronicle of a wild animal from birth in our hemisphere. At the invitation of Representative Raul Grijalva, (D-AZ) she testified before the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands oversight hearing entitled, “Challenges and Potential Solutions for BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program,” Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at 2:30 pm (Eastern Time) in Room 1334 Longworth House Office Building.
On May 11, 2016 the BLM issued a Press Release titled “WildHorses and Burros on Public Rangelands Now 2.5 greater than when the 1971 law was passed,” bemoaning problems which they themselves have created. Instead of embracing realistic management strategies, the BLM and some western politicians have attempted to derail the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (Wild Horse Act) aimed at protecting wild horses on public lands.
For over 20 years the BLM has had reasonable, cost effective and humane ways to maintain healthy populations of wild horses and burros on their legally designated homes on the range in the form of the fertility vaccine PZP. Dr. John Turner wrote: “...the consequent cost of one un-prevented foal is many times greater than a PZP-22 dose in terms of capture, processing and adoption (estimates > $ 2K) or lifelong warehousing (estimates up to $ 10K). A forty-thousand-dollar cost savings to the taxpayer on each treat/retreat mare is significant.”
Instead, BLM has chosen to ignore solid recommendations by Equine Professionals, The National Academies of Science and thousands if not millions of comments by the public recommending rational strategies and economically sustainable solutions to manage wild horse and burro populations “on the range” rather than continue inhumane and costly helicopter roundups and holding.
Prior to the hearing, Tom McClintock, Committee Chairman, released a memo describing the BLM’s program policy. Kathrens commented, “BLM alternatives are not humane and do not consider the welfare of a species protected by a unanimously passed act of Congress.”
BLM’s proposed solutions, deadly sterilization experiments on wild mares (some as young as 8 months of age), have met with public outcry not only against the BLM but also Oregon State University for expenditures of taxpayer dollars to finance surgical experiments, which have little practical application unless the death of mares is acceptable.
Kathrens, Humane Advocate on BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, will offer well-thought out solutions and outline problems with the BLM’s current strategies. “Overpopulation of wild horses and burros on public lands has been alleged by the BLM and passed on without question by media for years,” Kathrens states. “However the BLM manages the population of most herd management areas at levels far below the population required for genetic viability (150-200 animals). In her testimony Kathrens states, “BLM has so marginalized wild horses that the majority of herds are too small to meet even minimal standards to ensure their genetic viability… It is obvious that one solution to warehousing wild horses and burros in costly short-term holding is a reexamination of appropriate management levels (AMLs) and a fairer allocation of available forage between wild horses and livestock.”
By establishing appropriate management levels at ridiculously low numbers, the BLM declares a huge overpopulation of wild horses and burros. However, when you look at BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro statistics closely it is easy to see that the problem lies in the herd size BLM wants to manage. Several examples are shocking. The Montezuma Peaks herd in Nevada on nearly 78,000 acres is managed at a population of 2-4 horses, therefore the current population of 64 horses is represented as 1600% over AML. BLM’s manipulation of numbers has been so successful over the years as to dupe the American Public and the media into believing that western public lands are overrun with wild horses and burros. And their “estimated” population numbers based on 20% annual reproduction has perpetuated a “sky is falling” mentality and rhetoric aimed at destroying thousands of wild horses across the west.
Rangeland Degradation by wild horses has been grossly overstated by the BLM to cover up years of livestock overgrazing. In 1990 the GAO reported: “BLM'S decisions on how many wild horses to remove from federal rangelands have not been based on direct evidence that existing wild populations exceed what the range can support. While wild horses are routinely removed. Livestock grazing frequently remains unchanged or increased after the removal of wild horses, increasing the degradation of public lands.”
A Peer review of BLM Rangeland Health Assessments states, “As of 2012, based on the records PEER received from the BLM… the agency claims that 10,480 allotments have not met standards (55% of total allotment area), and that 16% of allotments (29% of total allotment area) have failed standards due to livestock grazing.
“We have at our disposal humane and economically sustainable ways to manage wild horses on the range,” states Kathrens, “if only the BLM will agree to pursue a different path.” The Cloud Foundation and many other organizations have offered volunteer assistance to the BLM to make management of wild horses and burros on the range a reality. “It is high time the BLM perform their legal mandate to protect wild horses on public lands.”
The Preamble of the unanimously passed Wild Horse Act concludes, the wild free-roaming horse and burro “are to be considered … as an integral part of the natural system of public lands.”
The opportunity for the head of a wild horse advocate organization to testify before a congressional oversight hearing is historic. “Constituents concerned for the welfare of publicly owned wild horses and burros are tired of being ignored by the BLM and their congressional representatives,” Kathrens concludes. She continues, "Wishes of the American people are not being taken into consideration. There are far more cost effective and humane measures for managing wild horses on public lands than those under consideration by the BLM.”