Bureau of Land Management introduces new wild horse roundup policies

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  March 2013:

RENO,  Nevada––The U.S. Bureau of Land Management on February 1,  2013 issued new policy directives governing wild horse roundups.

“At all times,  the care and treatment provided by the BLM and contractors will be characterized by compassion and concern for the animal’s well-being and welfare,”  ordered BLM assistant director for renewable resources and planning Edwin Roberson.

“Helicopter contractors will have to take extra care not to separate slower young animals from their mothers during roundup stampedes,”  wrote Scott Sonner and Matthew Daly of Associated Press.  “The new orders also require the agency to make sure the public has reasonable access to observe the roundups,  in compliance with federal law,”   and with a directive issued by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco,  responding to a lawsuit brought by Wild Horse Education president Laura Leigh.

American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign spokesperson Deniz Bolbo called the new directives “an attempt by BLM to address criticism,”  that “will do nothing to change the practices on the ground.  American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign founder Neda DeMayo told Sonner and Daly that a part of the new policy requiring that horses be treated “consistent with domestic livestock handling practices” is a step backward from a December 2011 memo in which Nevada BLM director Amy Lueders declared that wild horse handling should be consistent with “domestic horse handling procedures.”

“Although domestic horse handling practices are a step above the livestock industry,”  DeMayo said,  “wild horses are neither domestic horses nor livestock.  They are wild animals and as such must be humanely managed as a wildlife species on the range where they belong.”

The new directives were issued just a month before Recreational Equipment Inc. chief executive Sally Jewell was to succeed Ken Salazar as Interior Secretary,  responsible for oversight of the BLM and all other federal agencies that manage wild horses,  except the Department of Defense.

Under Salazar,  nearly 40,000 wild horses have been removed from the range since 2008.  But the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and Saving America’s Mustangs,  headed by Madeleine Pickens,  had lobbied for the appointment of Representative Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) to replace Salazar.

“We’re hopeful that Jewell doesn’t start to drink from the same well that everybody has been drinking from in Washington,”  Pickens told Martin Griffith of Associated Press.  “The animals get left out at every turn.  Politically,  the mustang has always been treated as less than a desert cockroach,”  Pickens said.

A Salazar acquaintance,  livestock hauler Tom Davis of San Luis Valley,  Colorado,  is reportedly under investigation by both federal and state agencies in connection with the purchase of more than 1,700 horses from the BLM since 2009.

“Davis maintains he found the animals what he called ‘good homes,’  but wild-horse advocates fear they ended up in Mexican slaughterhouses,”  summarized Dave Philipps of the Colorado Springs Gazette,  who exposed the transactions in September 2012.

A BLM directive issued on January 4,  2013 states that “buyers will be allowed to purchase only four horses every six months,  unless they have special approval from top BLM officials,”  Philipps wrote.  “Buyers also must tell the BLM where agents can find the horses for six months after the purchase.”

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