Interesting reactions from stakeholders in the wild horse community are surfacing now that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has published his plan to overhaul the BLM's wild horse and burro management plan by establishing a series of sanctuaries around the country for wild horses.
Click here to read about the actual plan announced by Salazar and my reaction to it.
Wild horse advocate Madeleine Pickens of Texas, who months ago had petitioned the federal government to turn over the management of the wild horses to her, has come out with a statement of support for Salazar's proposal. She published this today:
"I am delighted that the Secretary of the Interior has announced reforms for the Wild Horse and Burro Program. Much of what the Secretary said yesterday echoes what I have said over the past eighteen months. Those concerns about the existing BLM program led me to seek a wild horse sanctuary/visitor center that would be available to the American people.
"It is gratifying to know that the effort I have made the past year and a half to offer this project for the sake of the wild horses and the American people has borne fruit in Washington. I respect Secretary Salazar's forthright candor in calling attention to this serious problem which has been ignored by the BLM for many years under previous administration.
"I will support Secretary Salazar's efforts, and will gladly compete to offer the wild horse sanctuary that I have planned to the BLM as one of the facilities proposed by Secretary Salazar."
Meanwhile, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) expressed more cautious optimism in reaction to the plan. Their press release says that the plan takes federal management of wild horses from a scheme that is "often inefficient, costly and inhumane to one which is technologically advanced, fiscally sound and more humane."
One fertility control method supported by The HSUS is the immunocontraception vaccine Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP) which HSUS claims has tremendous potential for managing wild horses in an effective, humane and cost-effective manner. Peer-reviewed studies quoted by HSUS have shown that by treating more mares with this drug and returning them to the range, rather than detaining them indefinitely in holding centers, the cost of managing wild horses could be reduced by as much as 14 percent per year, saving taxpayers more than $6 million annually, according to HSUS projections.
BLM's efforts to explore and develop new, innovative ways to manage its wild horse program come in the wake of a firestorm of controversy following the agency's announcement in June 2008 that the agency would consider euthanizing or selling for slaughter more than 10,000 wild horses currently housed in federal holding facilities as a solution for its fiscal problems. The disturbing announcement generated an enormous amount of public and congressional opposition to proposed plan and the call for a more progressive, humane one.
What you are reading here is politics. Wild horses can't vote; Congress will decide what their fate will be. Both Pickens and HSUS know that and are prepared to play ball with the Department of the Interior and Congress to do what they believe is best for the horses, who are protected under a federal law, enforcement of which many think the BLM has botched in favor of shared land use of western public acreage where the horses roam.
This latest chapter is just beginning and it's not known who else will come forward; for now, Pickens and HSUS are publicly expressing interest and approval of the idea of a new way forward.
That is what diplomacy and tact are all about. In the Fox News way of expressing our views, we sometimes forget that. Politics is not just Cooper Anderson and the CNN model of polar opposites presenting their views and talking over each other. If he had people on his show at night who were the diplomats who craft the solutions to polarized issues, no one would watch. And those people are too busy working, anyway.
In July, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1018, the Restoring Our American Mustangs (ROAM) Act, championed by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall and National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee Chairman Ra?l Grijalva. The legislation provided an even more comprehensive set of reforms, including restoring the longstanding prohibition on commercial sale and slaughter of wild horses and burros, and prohibiting euthanasia of healthy and adoptable wild horses in federal care.
As with all things political, timing is everything and every piece of legislation must be passed by both bodies of Congress. Often each body initiates legislation on an issue like this and there is lengthy commitee hearing session time to endure. Much legislation never makes it out of committee for an actual vote.
Is it possible that both ROAM's sale and slaughter prohibitions and a national sanctuary system could come out of the same Congress?
Madeleine Pickens and her supporters sent more than 11,000 emails to Ken Salazar in the last six months about the wild horse sanctuary concept. Guess what? The concept got through to him.
Keep your eye on this blog and on the key stakeholders to see what will happen next in this quickly developing story. Will Congressional powers give these already-protected animals the priority attention they deserve or will they drag their feet? Wild horses on public lands need a vote of confidence from Washington.