By THE CLOUD FOUNDATION
To The Desert Independent
June 24, 2016
WASHINGTON, DC – Republicans on the Federal Lands Sub-Committee launched a full out assault on wild horses on public lands in the West, while absent Democratic members conducted a sit-in on gun control legislation at the Capital. What was supposed to be an “oversight hearing,” on the “Challenges and Potential Solutions for BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program,” devolved into a vicious political attack on legally Protected Wild Horses and Burros and the only advocate present to represent them.
Subcommittee Chairman, Tom McClintock only asked questions that supported their position that wild horses are to be blamed for the destruction of western rangelands even though they roam on less than 12% of public lands where privately owned livestock are allocated 82% of the forage.
Ginger Kathrens, Volunteer Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation and Humane Advocate on BLM's National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, was the lone expert witness to present the case for the wild horses and burros. Her fact-based, 5 minute summary was distilled from a detailed document the Colorado organization presented to the committee. Ginger outlined humane, financially sustainable and common-sense solutions to the BLM’s self-created crisis.
Kathrens was asked no follow up questions on substance. Instead she was marginalized as Congressmen and Congresswoman, Cynthia Lummis railed against BLM and their inability to control populations. The all-Republican shoot out, was aimed squarely at what they perceived as the silver bullets---euthanasia, slaughter, and sterilization. One member compared sterilization of wild horses to taking a puppy in for neutering. And Rep. Lummis talked of how she supports humane euthanasia, as the horses would die in a “lovely way.”
“With each passing minute, I was hoping I would actually be asked a question on the factual presentation I made,” stated Kathrens. “That moment never came.”
The other “expert” witnesses, Dr. J.J. Goicoechea, DVM, State Veterinarian, Deputy Administrator, State of Nevada Department of Agriculture; Callie Hendrickson, Executive Director, White River and Douglas Creek Conservation Districts, Chairwoman, American Farm Bureau Federal Lands Issue Advisory Council; and Keith Norris, Director, Government Affairs & Partnerships, The Wildlife Society, Chair, National Horse and Burro Rangeland Management Coalition, hold pro-slaughter and pro permanent-sterilization positions. The majority of questions were asked of at Dr. J.J. Goicoechea, DVM, State Veterinarian and Deputy Administrator – State of Nevada, who talked of how the horses are dying on the range of dehydration and lack of forage. He provided a photo of an emaciated mare with a nursing foal but no data to support his claim. When Kathrens was asked about whether bison and elk were native, she was abruptly cut off when she attempted to tell the Committee why the wild horse is actually more native than most other hooved species.
“The occasion was a sad commentary on the democratic process, when elected leaders are so intimidated by alternative viewpoints that they stack the deck and shut-out caring and dedicated citizens from sharing their personal experiences and knowledge,” said Anni Williams, TCF Board member who was on location with Kathrens when newborn Cloud, for whom TCF is named, came tottering out of the trees as Kathrens filmed. “Without ever allowing Ginger to cite her scientific sources regarding such issues as to whether wild horses are native or not to North America, Congressman Crescent Hardy abruptly cut her off concluding that he was frustrated by ‘uneducated comments’ expressed by animal rights activists,” Williams concluded.
Even Washington insiders seemed stunned at the one-sided line of questioning and the level of anger expressed about the presence of wild horses on Western rangelands.
The House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Federal Lands It is made up of 24 members – 15 Republicans and 9 Democrats.
Only Republicans asked questions: Tom McClintock (R-CA) Doug LaMalfa, (R-CA0, Rob Bishop, (R-UT), Don Young, (R - AL), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Cynthia Lummis, (R-WY), Bruce Westerman (R-ARK), and Cresent Hardy (R-NV).