I joined Actress Wendie Malick and Congressman Grijalva at the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Palomino Valley Holding Facility where 2,000 wild horses currently live in large corrals. Wendie and I accompanied the Congressman on a tour of the facility. There was a good turnout of advocates and media; local advocates felt revitalized by the event. It meant a lot to them that the Congressman and Wendie Malick traveled out to what is Ground Zero for captured wild horses. Some of RTF’s loyal donors came out from Sacramento to support, as well, so a shout out to Jaime and Larry Beuitler!
Below is the speech I presented at the press conference:
Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary was created as a model 16 years ago to explore minimally intrusive management alternatives for wild horses that could be applied on the range.
It is the responsibility of the BLM as mandated by Congress to manage our wild horses on the range, as the law intended.
This is not a horse problem. Our nation’s wild horses are on the frontlines in an ongoing battle over public land use and the allocation of our natural resources. What they face now, we face next.
There is no multi-billion dollar industry profiting from free ranging wild horses. That is their only crime.
This is a solvable problem. Government agencies, the public, the livestock industry, and all stakeholders must work together to take a solutions-focused approach to preserve a sustainable future for all wildlife, our wilderness areas, and natural resources — and our communities.
If the livestock industry can manage millions of cattle on 160 million acres of our public land, surely we can find a viable solution for some 32,000 wild horses who are outnumbered by over 50 to 1 on 27 million acres designated principally for their use.
Return to Freedom campaigns for the redirection of funds currently spent on the capture, removal, short- and long-term holding, to “minimally intrusive on the range management solutions.”
One component to address where management is concerned is reproduction.
Recognizing that horses live in sophisticated social communities, we were able to relocate intact social bands to the sanctuary in an effort to maintain some of the herd’s natural integrity. We have successfully used non-hormonal immuno-contraception-native PZP for 15 years at the sanctuary as a tool to slow down reproduction, with an efficacy rate of between 85-91%.
While Return to Freedom advocates a multi-pronged approach to address solutions for each habitat, Native PZP is a viable immediate solution to slow down reproduction while we address underlying issues and create long-term policy changes.
We do agree that populations on the ranges are impacting resources; however, we do not agree that Equus is the species that has an overpopulation problem.
While we may not all agree that wild horses are overpopulating our public lands, it remains true that while roundups continue, those left on the range continue to reproduce.
BLM’s continued sex ratio skewing and roundups are not working and are, in fact, exacerbating the problem both economically and with population management, causing increased population growth while holding facilities continue to overfill.
The agency’s ‘business as usual’ is forcing a crisis. The Wild Horse and Burro Program will cost the taxpayer over $78 million this year, and this tragically puts the lives of over 50,000 wild horses now in government subsidized facilities in jeopardy.
The BLM has had the technology for over 20 years, to slow down reproduction. Now it is time to use it.
Science has confirmed what we have been saying for decades: the National Academy of Sciences warned that continuation of BLM’s “business as usual” management policies will be “expensive and unproductive for the BLM and the public it serves.” The NAS report affirms what we’ve been calling on BLM to do for years.
Having spent considerable time with wild horse herds on rangeland habitats in Nevada and Oregon, and managing hundreds of wild horses daily, we understand some of the complexities the BLM faces with the application of immuno-contraception and other solutions that would support on the range management. However, it can and must be done.
Solutions are on the table and NOW is the time for BLM to step up and implement them.
The current management program is unsustainable and unnecessary. It is time to take the hostility out of all sides of the issue, roll up our sleeves and get to work — together. It is time for change.
Until federal legislation is passed to stop the sale and transport of our horses for slaughter, real solutions will not be implemented. We urge the public to contact their Representatives and ask them to support the S.A.F.E. Act.
It is time for a new direction. We must leave the prejudices of the past behind and step into a sustainable future to protect our symbol of freedom for generations to come.