CHICAGO, (EWA) – The Los Angeles Times printed a guest column today by Department of Interior (DOI) chief and former rancher, Ken Salazar, aimed at rationalizing the unnecessary removal of America’s wild mustangs and burros from their vast ranges.
Equine Welfare Alliance’s (EWA) John Holland commented, “The opinion piece is an attempt to spin the growing outrage and coast to coast demonstrations which have taken place over the past few weeks.”
An EWA announced protest will take place on January 17 in New York City from 1pm-3pm at Columbus Circle (59th St at Central Park S-corrected address). Two other protests are planned for January 18 in Reno from noon-3pm at South Virginia Street and South McCarran Boulevard and January 21 from 11am-1pm at the California State Capitol building.
Salazar falsely states that in the 1960s, the wild herds of the American west were on the verge of extinction, prompting Congress to pass the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. In fact, much like today, legislators in Washington tardily passed the law after the heroic work of a Nevada woman named Velma Johnson and hundreds of thousands of protesters applied enough pressure to get the Congress’ attention.
Today, it is the DOI on Salazar’s watch that is entrusted to protect the wild herds but instead, is now the driving force managing the wild herds to the verge of extinction. Why? Because Salazar’s rancher friends need more land to graze their 7.5 million cattle which now have to compete with only 30,000 wild horses.
Many herds have been zeroed out, rounded up and are now held captive in pens on private land that the American public, who pays for their upkeep, are not allowed to view.
The small numbers of horses that have been returned to their lands after round-ups have received birth control and with such small numbers are destined for extinction. There are currently more wild horses being held captive than remain free-roaming with those remaining in the wild rapidly becoming genetically bankrupt and unable to create future generations.
Salazar states, “Without natural predators, wild horse populations have grown beyond the carrying capacity of the sensitive and sparse lands on which they live, causing damage to ecosystems and putting them at risk of starvation.” Pictures and video footage from the gathers tell a different story. Unfortunately, the primary predator is Ken Salazar and his pals at the cattlemen’s associations, meat producers, and the America Farm Bureau. Also not mentioned, is how those sensitive and sparse lands can sustain millions of privately owned livestock? Wild horse advocates have likened America’s public lands to that of a giant private feedlot for ranchers.
Salazar’s plan to move wild non-reproducing herds to seven new preserves in the East and Midwest will ensure their extinction. Even he is at least honest enough to call them tourist attractions. Climate, habitat and range changes coupled with birth control and separating sexes is the beginning of the end as they disappear in zoo like settings. The estimated initial cost for these preserves is $96 million which doesn’t include the cost of gathering or transporting the horses. The cost for the gather underway at the Calico complex in Nevada alone will run taxpayers over $1.9M.
Glaringly missing from Salazar’s editorial is the Ruby Pipeline and the California Heliostat project that will rip through the wild horse ranges.
Mr. Salazar has asked for ideas from the public. EWA will be issuing a position paper on wild horse and burro management within the next few days and full proposal within the next few weeks.
Salazar’s invitation for public comment rings hollow when every time the public attempts to speak to the BLM wild horse board they are cut off and not heard. Moreover, the agency’s director, Bob Abbey, has repeatedly dodged interviews with respected journalists about the wild horse issue.
“The future of our wild herds is dependent on working together,” commented EWA’s Vicki Tobin. “Future generations should be able to enjoy wild herds in their natural habitat, not read about them in history books.”
The Equine Welfare Alliance is a dues free, umbrella organization with over 90 member organizations. The organization focuses its efforts on the welfare of all equines and the preservation of wild equids.