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Everyone who reads my Fab 40 columns has pretty much gotten the idea that I'm one of those 'tree huggers'. You know, the 'flaming liberal' type who worries intently over the critters and the forests, the oceans and the streams. Like a lot of folks, I've about reached overload on hearing about the day in and day out tanking economy, will the stimulus work or will it not work, bail outs and buy downs. I'd almost reached the point where nationalization was beginning to sound pretty logical, and would someone please insert a cork between the lips of Limbaugh and the incessant picking of pundits at the irrelevant.

Then, a good friend of mine sent me the link to a story in the Washington Post. I then returned to the former dire feelings in regard to nationalization of anything. Not if the Congress has to be involved. If the Bureau of Land Management is an example of this able body's ability to manage anything, we sure don't need them taking over the banks! Better to include a stipulation in the bail outs to fire the inept and corrupt CEO's and hire a few homemakers adept at balancing a household budget and laying out a chore chart.  We already know that Congress is unable to manage the composition of a single piece of legislation resembling clarity and common sense. We sure don't need to give them a balance sheet!

The thought also fleeted through my mind questioning why we never hear about this kind of thing on CNN rather than 2,987 repeats of RNC leader, Steel apologizing to Rush the Ruler.

We've all become familiar with the name T Boone Pickens, the former oil man with an alternative energy plan to harness the power of the wind. But again, with all my focus on the polar bears and wolves and the overcrowded domestic pet shelters, I wasn't aware that Mrs. Madeleine Pickens had a passion for saving the 30,000 wild Mustangs and burros being held in Federal holding pens from government slaughter. She planned on purchasing $25 to $50 million dollars worth of range land and turning the horses free in a public access "ecosanctuary". The goal was not only to save the lives of thousands of horses, but to save tax dollars by setting up a private foundation to care for the horses.

Mrs. Pickens has chosen a million acres of suitable land in Nevada, home to about half of the nation’s wild horse population. Approximately half the land is privately held and the rest is Federal land. She told lawmakers that her dream was to create a place where city children, Boy and Girl Scouts, families and animal lovers of all kinds could stay overnight in log cabins, sit by campfires and admire the mustangs while learning about their place in American culture. But as the economy continues to plunge downward, Pickens says philanthropic donations have dried up and she asked the Federal government to contribute $15 million a year to care for the horses she'd take off their hands because the deal is unworkable without government assistance.

Officials with the Bureau of Land Management have been struggling with the growing financial and political headache of caring for the wild horses that roam Federal lands in ten western states, horses whose lineage dates back to the time of the Spanish Conquistadors. The problem is, they compete for food with the cattle owned by ranchers who lease grazing rights from the government.  

BLM officials say the range can only handle about 27,000 horses. Excess animals are rounded up and put into holding facilities for adoption. To make matters worse, the government has shrunk the open space available to the horses by about 19 million acres in recent years, which results in more roundups. The Bureau has typically gathered about 10,000 horses a year. Now, thanks to the recession, adoptions have slowed significantly in the past five years and the cost of feeding and caring for the horses has grown, destroying the Bureau’s budget. The Government Accountability Office calls it a catastrophe!  

In 2009, the Bureau expects to spend about $10.3 million on horses in long-term holding facilities and $22.6 million on horses in short-term corrals. Mrs. Pickens has asked for half that! Yet, the problem has grown so severe, Bureau officials are considering a legal but controversial solution . . . euthanasia! A kind word for 'slaughter' in this case. The article went on to say, "That horrified Pickens, a racehorse breeder and animal lover who, along with her husband, airlifted 800 cats and dogs stranded by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and brought them to California for adoption."
She planned to adopt all wild horses and burros being held in Federal pens, sterilize them and turn them loose on her retirement ranch. As the government rounds up additional horses each year, she would absorb them because they would replace horses that die from natural causes.
Ron Wenker, the Nevada state director for the Bureau of Land Management, said the money Pickens is seeking, $500 per horse per year, is about the same amount the government pays private ranchers who host wild horses long term on their pastures under Federal contracts. "But a Federal agency that relies on annual appropriations from Congress has no authority to commit to ad infinitum payments to Pickens," Wenker said. "Furthermore, the property that she wants is ineligible under a Federal law that restricts horses to public lands that they inhabited as of 1971."
Mrs. Pickens says her plan is stalling because bureaucracy can't respond to an innovative solution. “They say, ‘Oh, she wants taxpayers’ money,‘" Pickens said. “No, I’m trying to save taxpayer money. They have more horses in holding than they do on the range. That’s not good for the horses; and that’s not good for the taxpayers.”
Perhaps, I'm a bit dense when it comes to animals, but I don't understand that logic. Arguably, no other image around the world symbolizes America and the majestic wild west like that of the wild horse. Is nothing sacred? Must we annihilate every living thing that gets in our way? If the wild mustangs date back to the Spanish Conquistadors, they inhabited public lands long before 1971. Probably, long before the Conquistadors!
Rep. Nick J. Rahall II (D-W.Va.) has introduced a bill that would allow wild horses on the Federal land being eyed by Pickens. Among other things, his plan would also prohibit federal officials from slaughtering any horse that is not terminally ill "Pickens’s proposal makes sense for taxpayers," Rahall said. “Her plan uses a combination of private resources and public funds,” he said. “And in today’s tight budget, that’s nothing to walk away from.”
Well, if that's the case and it makes sense, we'll probably walk away from it and build another bridge to nowhere while thousands of horses are put to death. But, we'll never know, I suspect. Things this relevant don't seem to find their way onto the news.

Susan Haley, Author/Editor


Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Tamra wrote Mar 9, 2009
    • Sorry, but today the money is going to be spent on ___________(fill in the blank from the earmarks in the so-called stimulus plan.) Better luck next time. (removing tongue from cheek) :>(

      It’s a sad shame.....This economic turmoil is having far reaching impacts.  Our leaders have decided that “We” should pay for our fellow citizens’ irresponsibility and ignore the innocent among us who are more deserving of our help.  Just another way the lack of self-reliance in our nation is hurting us all, and I do mean ALL.


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