Thursday, February 17, 2011

BLM budget cut: opinion

Some people might be celebrating at the news of budget cuts to the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse program.  Though the cut is just a drop in the bucket -- two million compared to billions that are cut from other programs -- Dan Burton says that he hopes it will force the BLM to “treat the mustangs in a humane way.” 

Critics say that program costs have been increasing.  Instead of using this rise in costs to fix the management problem, the BLM continues to round up horses off the range and add to the cost of long term holding.  According to this article, 40,000 are held in holding off the range, while only 30,000 are left in their “natural habitat.”  Since the horses have been protected since 1971, these increasing numbers of captured horses versus free-roaming horses are a reason for many concerns.

What is the BLM to do if this cut is approved?

Increase allocation to horses while decreasing livestock grazing permits?  Allow the horses to populate on the delicate semi-arid and arid ecosystems?  Reinstate the provision allowing the Secretary to destroy: (1) old, sick, or lame animals; (2) excess horses and burros for which an adoption demand does not exist in order to cut funding of long term holding? 

Two million dollars does not seem like much, but I have heard through the grapevine various people express their concerns that it may have an impact on horse gathers and horse management overall.  I refer back to something I read recently in Federal Public Lands and Resources Law by Coggins, Wilkinson, & Leshy.  Upholding the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act has not been a pretty story and has often been condemned as the product of “mindless emotionalism.”  Horse management appears to be continuing on this difficult tract led by public outcry and concern for this feral species. If it was any other animal than a horse, management would be eradicating them, not continuing to protect them. 

This rather cynical opinion (or at least it feels that way to me) may be due to my sleep deprived state (who told me grad school was a great idea?), but it still irks me that outcry, driven purely by emotions and not fact, or seemingly any ounce of reason, has such a strong power over our government.  If funding is to be cut, it should be based purely on well-thought economic decisions of necessity or science proving that horse populations are at appropriate numbers and gathers not needed for many herds.


  1. Thank you for your insight, Jessie.
    The sad thing is, no one can come up with a viable option, or a mission statement for the day the gathers stop.
    I'm afraid that this will be the end of the wild horses roaming free on the ranges. One drought year and there will be no feed or water for them.
    We haven't gotten enough snow this year and what we did get melted early.

  2. I hope it does not come to that! Though they are a uniquely managed animal (protected non-native), I believe that horses have a cultural significance and their populations should remain - within reason.

    Maybe this will force a revamping of public lands management. I feel like it is leading up to a major change...hopefully something good. But, we need more science to be in charge of these things...