Wild Horse Roundups: Is the Media Keeping Score or Making Scores?

What does Rupert Murdoch have against Madeleine Pickens? Did his Newscorp-owned Wall Street Journal paint too tough picture of the woman many consider the savior of wild horses or are other media being too kind in reporting only her side of the wild horse story? Here’s the Fox News view of Pickens’ SAM proposal.

Wild horses are good news. Good news for media, that is, who are finding that the public is hungry for news (and views) over whether the Bureau of Land Management is on the right path to manage wild horses on public lands in the western United States. But in this day of partisan media, you’ll have to work hard to get both sides of the story–and both sides are likely to a little skewed, so good luck figuring out what’s really going on.

We survived the Summit of the Horse in Las Vegas (summary reports on the combo political/business/ethical pro-slaughter conference posted online should be required reading) and the controversy over the Saving America’s Mustangs float in the Rose Bowl Parade. (After all the criticism, a breakdown in the parade meant that the mustangs and war veterans were not seen on national television, although the float did win a prize.)

Amid the year-end lists, the group Wild Horse Preservation noted that CBS Radio listed Interior Department “corruption”, including the treatment of wild horses, as their #3 under-reported legal story of 2010. CNN began the year with a video series critical of BLM roundup practices.

If wild horses are good news for media ratings, they are still bad news for most ranchers and sad news for their advocates–unless, of course, government policy changes to favor the preservationist point of view.

This video from the New York Times from back in September attempted to show both sides of the wild horse issue. Do you think it succeeds?

As Congress returns today from the holiday weekend, members were greeted by a full-page ad in the Capitol Hill newspaper Politico. The ad criticized the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for its decision to proceed with the roundup of more than 2,000 mustangs in northeastern Nevada. A cost-effective alternative is on the table, according to the ad.

The press release announcing the ad actually says that the ad “blasts” the BLM. Given the controversy over Sarah Palin’s choice of terminology last week, I winced when I saw that word in the headline. I thought that a new sensitivity might result from the brouhaha over her map with cross-hair targets and advice to her followers to “Reload!” (I guess not.)

“As costs [of the BLM wild horse program] spiral out of control, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who oversees the BLM, and BLM Director Bob Abbey pledge reform. But their talk is cheap when opportunities for real action are ignored,” the ad admonishes.

The advertisement was placed and paid for by wild-horse advocate Madeleine Pickens, who has purchased two ranches in Nevada and is in the process of creating what sounds like a legitimate wild horse eco-sanctuary in the area. Pickens’ ranches are situated amidst the BLM’s Antelope Complex, where BLM intends to conduct a massive wild horse roundup this week.

In early December, Pickens and her Saving American Mustangs Foundation offered to provide state-of-the-art holding facilities for the captured horses on her private lands, and requested the BLM to postpone the Antelope roundup by a few months until the ranches were ready to receive the horses.

The Pickens proposal claimed it would prevent the waste of tax dollars incurred by shipping the horses thousands of miles to off-the-range holding facilities. BLM rejected the offer.

Last week, a coalition of organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States, the Western Watersheds Project and the ASPCA sent a letter to BLM director Bob Abbey urging him to postpone the roundup in favor of the Pickens plan.

Pickens’ ad states that beginning as early as Thursday, the BLM intends to capture up to 2,228 mustangs, or 83 percent of the wild horses living in the Antelope Complex. Meanwhile, the organization claims, BLM annually authorizes the equivalent of more than 2,000 privately-owned cattle and nearly 7,000 privately-owned sheep to graze the same area.

Saving America’s Mustangs also contends that BLM now warehouses more wild horses in government holding facilities than are left free on the range.

The issue is not going away. On its web site, the Bureau of Land Management National Wild Horse and Burro Program acknowledges receiving 9,000 emails and letters regarding the development of a new wild horse and burro management strategy. They said that these “merited close review”.

BLM sited these letters and the recent report published by the Interior Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) as reasons why the BLM postponed publication of a proposed new direction for the Wild Horse and Burro Program until after the first of the new year. The report has not been published, as of today.

The Inspector General’s report concluded that the BLM “is doing its best to perform a very difficult job” and found that the agency’s gathers of wild horses are both necessary and humane. The OIG report made several recommendations that the BLM said it would like to consider as it works toward finalizing its new wild horse and burro management strategy.

Let’s hear it.

Documents and resources from the New York Times, Saving America’s Mustangs, Wall Street Journal, American Wild Horse Preservation, and the BLM were used in preparing this article.

by Fran Jurga | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.comBe friends withFran Jurga on Facebook.com





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