Why did BLM reject Madeline Pickens’ Nevada wild horse sanctuary proposal?
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2011:
PHOENIX–A two-day Bureau of Land Management consultation
meeting on wild horse and burro management strategy, to be held on
March 10-11, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona, is likely to focus on why
the BLM on January 21 rejected a proposal from philanthropist
Madeline Pickens to accommodate 1,000 wild horses on 18,000 acres of
Nevada ranch land she purchased in 2010–and then began removing
about 2,000 wild horses from nearby public land.
“The Elko County ranches, which Pickens renamed the Mustang
Monument preserve, come with grazing rights on roughly 564,000 acres
of public land,” noted Martin Griffith of Associated Press.
Also certain to be heard are objections to roundup methods
“in which wild horse families are destroyed, burros are hot-shotted
and knocked to the ground by helicopters, and old, weak animals are
harassed into collapse,” said filmmaker and Cloud Foundation founder
Kathrens asked wild horse advocates to join her in seeking at
least a temporary halt to round-ups; for an increase in the numbers
of wild horses and burros allowed to live on public range; for the
majority of forage in herd management areas to be allocated to wild
horses and burros, rather than livestock; for improvement of
existing water sources; for fencing to be removed to allow horses to
use the range in their natural manner; for abandonment of
artificially skewed gender ratios; for protection of pumas, the
major predator of wild horses; for healthy wild horses now in BLM
holding to be returned to range which no longer has wild horses; and
for the BLM to “sincerely explore public/private partnerships,” such
as the Pickens proposal.
The importance of pumas as a natural control on wild horses
was underscored by findings newly published in the Journal of
Wildlife Management that wild horses make up from 10% to 13% of the
diet of adult male pumas–less than deer, but slightly more than
elk. University of Alberta biologist Kyle Knopff and three colleagues
who co-authored the paper studied more than 1,500 puma kill sites
while tracking 54 radio-collared pumas for 10 years.
Counter to the pro-wild horse position, the Nevada Board of
Wildlife Commissioners has reportedly instructed state water engineer
Jason King to tell the BLM that only animals “designated for
beneficial use” such as livestock and wildlife are entitled to drink
Nevada water. Wild horses are excluded, contends the Nevada Board
of Wildlife Commissioners, because they are considered “feral,”
despite evolving in North America.
BLM director Bob Abbey rejected Pickens’ plan because it
“wouldn’t save taxpayers’ money and doesn’t include enough water and
forage for the mustangs,” reported Griffith of Associated Press.
Pickens first proposed creating a mega-sized wild horse
sanctuary in 2008 after the BLM proposed killing some of the more
than 40,000 horses it is now holding in corrals, at cost of $37
million per year. About 33,700 wild horses remain on the range,
half of them in Nevada, according to BLM estimates.
The BLM rejected Pickens’ initial proposal because it would
have put wild horses on leased public land where wild horses did not
live when Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses & Burros Act
“While Pickens’ latest proposal addresses that issue,”
Griffith wrote, “Abbey said it would require an environmental
analysis to transfer title of wild horses to her and change the class
of livestock authorized on several Nevada grazing allotments from
cattle to horses. Existing law also would need to be changed to give
the BLM the authority to reimburse a private party for grazing wild
horses, Abbey said.”
Said Pickens, “Our target number of 1,000 horses is
consistent with the number of cattle the BLM has consistently
authorized on the public lands portions of the ranches I purchased.
It seems that the BLM believes there is enough forage and water for
cows, but not enough for horses on those same lands, from which the
cows have been removed.”
As the Phoenix showdown approached, BLM wild horse and burro
program manager Don Glenn quietly retired, reported Steven Long of
Horseback. BLM spokesperson Tom Gorey said a successor had not yet
Recalled Long, “Glenn’s tenure as head of the program
included a record number of wild horse deaths during last year’s
‘Calico Gather’ [in Nevada], misrepresentation of drought
conditions to a federal judge by BLM lawyers, illegally banning
overflights of roundups against Federal Aviation Administration
rules, and the capture of an iconic Palomino named Cloud and his
band, featured in three PBS specials,” produced by Ginger Kathrens.