The answers come easier not because they are wiser, but because of the absence of any meaningful dissent or discussion about alternatives.
In November 2006, Kurt Brungardt wrote an important essay in Vanity Fair chronicling most of this story. Back then, rather than undertake a meaningful revision to the Wild Horse Act that would restore some spine to the federal legislation, Congress instead effectively banned the slaughter of all horses on American soil. The legislation didn't end the slaughter business that Burns had stimulated, of course. It just outsourced it to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada. Last fall, Congress conceded defeat; now, there's talk that U.S. slaughterhouses may soon be re-opening.
No one knows how many wild horses have been slaughtered since 2004. Today, for now, the Bureau of Land Management is prohibited from selling wild horses to those who would then "knowingly" sell them to slaughter. As slender a reed of protection as that is for the horses, it's actually an improvement from the way it was after Burns first struck. But the current status on slaughter doesn't even purport to answer the bigger question here: What will now happen now, if not eventual slaughter, to the wild horses under federal control?
According to their own figures, the feds now control in pens or fenced pastures at least 45,000 wild horses. Last year, they rounded up over 10,000 wild horses, about the same as the year before . At the same time, however, the government says the number of wild horses roaming free is approximately the same as it was in 2004. Horse advocates believe this latter number is far less than the feds acknowledge but no one knows for sure, which is one reason why the National Academy of Science is currently reviewing the BLM's wild horse policies.
THE BLM AND THE ADVISORY BOARD
Once dubbed one of the five worst senators by Time, Burns is gone from political office. In 2008, after he was tainted by the Jack Abramoff scandal, he lost his reelection bid. What's significant here about his career, however, came before he went to Congress. Wikipedia tells us that Burns was a cattle auctioneer before becoming manager of a livestock expo. He was a farm guy; another farm guy, economically and philosophically opposed to wild horses on public land, who was dictating harmful policy about the horses under color and cover of law.
Burns may be Public Enemy Number One to the wild horse folks. But the Bureau of Land Management (the "Bureau of Livestock and Mining," as it has been called) is not far behind. And here is one reason why. Last Monday, for example, the BLM announced that it had "made selections for three positions on the National Wild Horse and Bureau Advisory Board," a group designed under the 1971 Wild Horse Act to advise the bureaucrats on wild horse policies. One of the BLM's choices for a "public" spot on the Board was Callie Hendrickson.