Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Bureau of Land Management's Performance Rating: Abysmal

The horse and burro herds living on public land in western states double their population every four years—the Bureau of Land Management who has been responsible for their care since 1971 has done little or nothing to curb the birth rate. The Bureau's performance rating: Abysmal.

It is troubling that the federal agency has never created a viable program to stem the birth rate of these animals. Allowing the horses and burros to breed indiscriminately has caused a nightmarish problem for the excess animals and an increasing financial burden for taxpayers. Presently the Bureau has about 50,000 horses and 10,000 burros living in captivity . The Bureau is seriously considering a massive roundup of the horses living in Wyoming which will strain holding facilities. Each horse kept in captivity costs taxpayers $46,000. The annual budget to feed and shelter the animals is $43 million.

Every year BLM officials determine the number of animals that need to be removed or destroyed to maintain the ecological status quo. Getting the animals off the range and into holding facilities is a costly operation and one that injures or kills scores of animals in the process. The government hires contactors to chase the animals via helicopter from their home turf into holding pens from where they then are crowded into trucks for their final destination. Many young and old animals do not survive the marathon stampede and punishing transport.

Some argue that aircraft herding is necessary but that opinion is faulty because there are numerous examples of animals being moved without mechanical intervention. Take for instance the herds of bison living in Utah on Antelope Island, they are rounded up every year by horseback riders. These animals, who can run at 40 mph, are driven for miles into short term enclosures, vaccinated and then released. Some of the herd is auctioned.

Even though the Bureau has been criticized by the news media, specifically NBC , the National Academy of Sciences , the ASPCA and other groups for their lackadaisical birth control policies the government animals continue to breed putting the horses and burros at risk of mistreatment and unnatural death. Case in point, the 1,700 horses adopted by Tom Davis that were slaughtered .

Those interested in recent BLM history should read the Interior Department Attorney General's report on Tom Davis, a Bureau of Land Management horse buyer. Bureau work is overseen by the Interior Department.

Over a four year period '08-'12, Mr. Davis purchased approximately 1,700 horses at a cost of $17,940. During the investigation Mr. Davis admitted that most of BLM horses were shipped to Mexican kill sites and that he made several thousand dollars off each truckload. Until 2012, the Bureau was paying to have horses shipped to buyers. The Bureau for instance paid $140,000 to ship the horses to Mr. Davis. Remarkably, Mr. Davis was not prosecuted, nor were any involved BLM employees fired.

There was a financial relationship between Tom Davis and former Labor Secretary Ken Salazar. It is unknown whether Mr. Davis received preferential treatment in his dealings with the Bureau but circumstantial evidence suggests that he was a favored buyer of horses. It should be noted that no other buyer came close to Mr. Davis's 1,700 horse purchase order.

There is no facet of the BLM program that is satisfactory for the animals or for the taxpayers. Birth control is not routinely administered to the gathered meres according to BLM reports. The holding facilities where the horses and burros live bear no resemblance to the animals' natural environment. Those adopting BLM horses and burros must provide a three-sided shelter for the animals whereas those confined in government-built temporary or long term holding sites are not afforded such protections.

It is obvious from all accounts that the Bureau of Land Management is a federal agency in desperate need of new management. The current Director, Neil Kornze appointed in 2014, has done nothing to improve the way business is conducted— the population of horses and burros continues to expand as does the BLM budget.

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