The landmark Wild Horse And Burro Act Of 1971 banned the inhumane treatment of wild horses and burros and put numerous safeguards in place to prevent their slaughter. Almost immediately after the law was passed, our government began to whittle away at it. In December of 2004, without review or discussion, Sen. Conrad Burns inserted a one-page rider into a 3,300 page budget appropriations bill on the eve of its Congressional deadline, removing federal protections for wild horses. President Bush signed off on the bill. Much outrage ensued, and within months the House passed a measure, with broad bi-partisan support, to reinstate legal protections. This bill was later blocked in the Senate by none other than Sen. Burns.
Although the BLM has not directly slaughtered wild horses, under existing laws wild horses may be sold, given or delivered to middlemen who then sell them to third parties who can do whatever they want with them, including sell them for slaughter. The BLM has shown no interest in pursuing any sort of investigation into such conduct, nor is it required by law. Given their past history, we cannot trust the BLM to make decisions for the welfare of our wild horses and burros. We must not allow this magnificent creature that symbolizes our American West to be eliminated by our government.
There remain approximately 22,000 to 30,000 uncaptured horses (depending on whose statistics you trust) on rangelands throughout the West under the control of the BLM. According to non-governmental scientists, the herds may have been reduced to the point that in the near future they may disappear. The BLM, which by law has been entrusted with the welfare of the horses, admits that their wild horse and burro program has indeed been a failure.
Despite federal legislation meant to protect the wild horses, millions of acres of their rangelands have been leased for cattle grazing, and they have been consistantly pushed into more barren and mountainous areas. Despite this, and as a testiment to their hardiness, they have continued to thrive in very difficult environments. During the last several years, over 10,000 per year have been taken from their reduced rangelands on the premise of protecting them. Some have been adopted, but most were placed in holding pens with no real plan in place for their future.
Several solutions have been proposed to prevent destruction of these equines. Last year, Madeleine Pickens made a substantial offer to relocate most, if not all, of the wild horses currently residing in government short-term and long-term holding pens, to land in northern Nevada. Her latest proposal has been rejected by the BLM.
Informative videos by Investigative Reporter George Knapp: www.lasvegasnow.com/Global/story.asp?S=11285225