February 19, 2009
The Cloud Foundation, dedicated to preserving wild horses on public lands, was horrified to learn that BLM would turn to killing wild horses to balance its budget.
Claiming it has a budget crisis, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the government agency charged with protecting wild horses, announced plans to consider euthanizing some or all of the 33,000 wild horses they have rounded up and confined in holding facilities.
“BLM has taken away their freedom and their families,” stated Ginger Kathrens, Emmy award-winning filmmaker and volunteer Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation, “Now they want to kill them to avoid a budget shortfall? These are not injured, sick or starving horses, but healthy wild horses removed from their homes by the thousands.”
Since 2000, BLM has conducted massive round ups, removing over 75,000 horses from the range, driving the wild mustang population to the brink of extinction. Currently, there are few wild horse herds large enough to maintain their long-term viability.
“The Pryors [in Montana] is the next case in point,” said Ms. Kathrens. “BLM is proposing the removal of all but 90 animals, a level that will jeopardize the horses’ long-term health and viability. Even though the Pryor herd traces directly back to the horses of the Conquistadors, they have targeted them for removal. Older horses on the Pryors would likely go into long term holding where they could face a death sentence if BLM proceeds with their plans.”
Even the famous Pryor stallion, Cloud, falls within the so-called “older” horse category at 13 years of age. BLM’s drastic removals have swamped its own Adoption Program which has, in the best of years, placed 5,000 wild horses with private owners. As a solution to the growing backlog of unadopted wild horses, the BLM came up with a long-term holding program in which wild horses would be cared for until death. That death could now come from a bullet, rather than from natural causes. BLM refers to this as Euthanasia.
Euthanasia as a management tool was included in The Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971, the legislation passed by Congress to stop the mass killing and exploitation of the mustangs. But, according to Hope Ryden, one of the individuals who helped draft the Act, Euthanasia was never meant to be used in the way BLM is planning.
“On the contrary, the document’s authors’ first consideration was for those (wild horses) in the wild that suffered broken legs, paralysis, or were too sick to graze,” Ryden states. “These wild horses, it was determined, must be helped to die quickly and humanely. That the BLM now seeks to do this to healthy, captive wild horses reflects on the Bureau’s woeful mismanagement of the wild horse program and their real indifference to horse suffering.”
Reacting in years past to BLM requests for “kill authority,” Congress placed protective language in each Appropriations Bill, specifically denying BLM the right to massively kill off the wild horses.
Then, in late 2006, U.S. Senator Conrad Burns of Montana slipped a rider into the Appropriations Bill which took the protective wording out. Reacting to this news, the U.S. House of Representatives quickly passed a bill, HR 249, which would have reinstated the protections in the Wild Horse and Burro Act. This bill stalled in the Senate in 2007 and has yet to be passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chaired by U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, (D-New Mexico).
BLM will decide whether to begin killing the public's horses in September. They invite calls from the public at 1-800-710-7597 as well as emails ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) about this issue.
The Cloud Foundation strongly urges the public to call the toll free number and email BLM as well as their congressional representatives. “The public has every right to be outraged by this cruel and unnecessary plan,” Kathrens said. “And the solution is so simple. Release the thousands of incarcerated mustangs back into their home on the range. There is no over population. On the contrary, there are too few wild horses at present to guarantee they will roam free into the future.”
Over the past 35 years BLM has eliminated all wild horses from over 100 legally designated herd areas in ten western states on nearly 20 million acres of our public lands.
For more information: Ginger Kathrens (719) 633-3842, Volunteer Executive Director, The Cloud Foundation, www.thecloudfoundation.org (The Cloud Foundation is a Colorado non-profit corporation dedicated to the preservation of wild horses on our public lands and the protection of Cloud’s herd in the Pryor mountains of Montana. The Foundation is named for Cloud, a pale palomino stallion, whom Ginger Kathrens has documented since his birth in May of 1995 for two PBS Nature programs. The third Cloud program will premier in the spring of 2009.)