Does Guilfoyle have what it takes? More broadly, can an Interior Department led by an unrepentant rancher, Ken Salazar, ever be an honest broker here?
Not bloody likely. Having implemented a policy that has driven tens of thousands of horses from their native ranges to grim holding pens, having
enabled "welfare ranching" by creating "welfare horses" by shifting the cost of the wild horses from land owners to the general public, Guilfoyle last
week said, "Where are we going to put these animals? We only have so much money."
THE ANNUAL MEETING
The Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board met last week in Reno, Nevada. Designed by the Wild Horse
Act of 1971 to be the people's voice on horse management, the Board has devolved instead over the
years into a partisan group where the warring factions incessantly argue with one another -- and the Bureau of Land Management -- over what should be done with and to the
horses. Think of the rough and tumble bar scene in Star Wars -- only with ranchers,
farmers, horse advocates, and bureaucrats warily criticizing one another across a hotel conference room.
There were two headlines from
last week's meeting. First, the BLM announced that more wild horses than planned might have to be rounded up this summer -- by helicopter stampede -- due
to what officials believe may constitute "emergency" drought conditions out West. By labeling the drought this way, federal officials may attempt to
minimize the procedural requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, which
generally require the feds to justify their roundups, in advance, and to make their plans available for public comment.
The other big news was the renewed push by livestock
advocates to resume the slaughter of wild horses. The argument goes something like this: Since the BLM now has "stockpiled" nearly 50,000 wild horses,
and since the federal government is responsible for housing these horses at public expense, the prudent course is to get rid of the "excess" horses by
selling them "without limitation" to the highest bidder. "Without limitation" is a deadly euphemism for slaughter. The sold horses would quickly end up
at rendering plants.
Here's how one horse advocate, Deniz Bolbol, of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, sees
the essence of last week's meeting:
As part of its strategy for reform, the BLM had promised Congress that it would reduce wild horse removals from 10,000 to 7,600 for Fiscal Years 2012 -
2014. For 2012, the agency already anticipates exceeding the removal number promised to Congress, with 8,909 wild horses targeted for removal from the
range, inclusive of 1,035 horses to be removed from Forest Service lands. Now the BLM is indicating that it will use drought as an excuse to round up
even more horses from the range. Alternatives to these removals, such as temporarily hauling in water for wild horses and wildlife; restoring and
protecting spring heads; significantly reducing livestock grazing over the long term; and addressing major consumptive users of water on public lands,
such as mining operations; do not appear to be under consideration.
Tom Gorey, a BLM spokesman, offered this response Tuesday afternoon via email;
The BLM doesn't use drought as an "excuse" to round up horses. When we see a need for emergency gathers, we respond rather than let horses die at the
decree of Mother Nature. One of the proposed answers to keeping more wild horses on the range -- removing cattle - - is a red herring. This prescription
ignores the fact that cattle grazing has declined by more than 30 percent since 1971, when Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.
Those who oppose livestock grazing on public lands, on which the BLM carries out a multiple-use mission, should seek a legislative answer to their
And what does Guilfoyle say? Last week, according to the Associated Press, she said this: "Drought conditions are a big concern.
Adoptions are still down. Long-term holding space -- we are having a challenge getting enough of it. Short-term holding space is expensive because gas
and hay is rising." In other words, she's now complaining about a problem the BLM itself helped create by ratcheting up the pace of its forced roundups
while refusing to implement less drastic measures to cull the herds. That's just not going to get the job done.