By LAURA LEIGH, President Wild Horse Education
To The Desert Independent
June 8, 2017
Today Ryan Zinke gave testimony to the US House Appropriations Committee hearing on the proposed Department of Interior (DOI) budget for fiscal year 2018. The news that the budget proposes a $10 million dollar spending cut to the already underfunded Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro Program is effectively putting a bullet in the heads, or allowing kill buyers to profit off of the wild horses by sale to slaughter. The news hit headlines last week amidst a wave of outrage from the advocate community.
Yesterday Zinke announced yet another review of sage grouse planning. “Planning 2.0” was one of the first things sent down the drain under the new administration. The process to create 2.0 took years and cost American taxpayers an estimated billion dollars after committees, planning meetings, revisions, etc. Yet another team will now be assembled to review “conservation plans” that already favor industry. This will provide an even more favorable climate for exploitation.
“This administration will literally throw away a billion tax payer dollars to gain even more favor with exploitive industries and states that resent any authority of the federal government to protect public resource. But sending tens of thousands of wild horses to take a bullet to save ten million is somehow acceptable?” said Laura Leigh, founder of Wild Horse Education (WHE).
“Over the last decade, I have watched our public lands deteriorate, politicians help livestock permittees to break the law, entitlements given to permittees in drought as they continued to pound the range. I have watched federal land managers roll over, time and time again, for states, counties and exploitive interests. But do they pay any heed to creating sane and doable management for wild horses? No. They simply continued to scapegoat the wild horse that is a marginal user of federal grazing land,” Leigh said.
In 2013 the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a report that failed the BLM wild horse program on any pretense of management based on scientific review. The study was commissioned by the BLM at a cost estimated at 1.5 million dollars. The information used was simply cherry picked from to continue flawed practices instead of being incorporated into practice. To this date, no series of formal recommendation have been issued by the BLM national office and put into practice at the field level. Creating planning to 2.0 instead became the priority of the agency where they simply inserted the old broken paradigm to satisfy exploitive interests.
“Zinke keeps saying that he needs to give states and industry more voice,” said Leigh. “Out here those are the only voices that are heard. Environmental interests and wild horses are sent into a black hole of silence. If Zinke wants to leave any legacy, he needs to decide if he is the guy to put an end to the constant waste of taxpayer money used to placate exploitative interests.”
During testimony, Zinke discussed development on public land as an “investment/return” based discussion. At no time was any discussion had about the investment/return to the taxpayer of the domestic livestock industry that operates on public land. The American taxpayer gets absolutely no return. The BLM livestock program operates at a loss of at least $125 million each year yet only processes about 3% of all beef utilized in industry. Domestic livestock production is the single most destructive use of public land grazing, not wild horses. In a state like Nevada, one casino in Las Vegas employs more people than the entire agriculture industry statewide.
Wild horses occupy less than 12% of public land and use about 16% of available forage. To scapegoat wild horses for an industry that grazes 66% of public land, uses over 80% of public forage, often breaks the law and runs out of permitted use times and produces less than 4% of beef is an absurdity.
“Killing tens of thousands of wild horses, that are a protected cultural resource, not a profit driven use, is not acceptable because Mr. Zinke wont address the ‘holy cow’ of the West.” Leigh concluded, “If Zinke wants to sound credible on any issue, he must address serious entitlement reforms. Zinke’s words don’t match any assertion of appropriate actions.”
“As far as the wild horse program is concerned, it is a constant embarrassment when federal officials repeat propaganda of the livestock industry and show ignorance of basic facts,” said Leigh, “One simple example is an assertion that for fertility control to work you have to ‘track horses in the woods and shoot them with a dart twice in 24 hours.’ I have no idea who fed that to Zinke, but they just made him look like an idiot. Maybe next time, he will personally look for real facts, not the ‘alt’ kind.”
The Department of Defense spent $84 million on Viagra in 2014. This is more than the entire cost of the wild horse and burro program.
“Let’s not lose perspective,”