Rather than preserve our nation's wild horses and burros, the agency charged with managing them - the U.S. Bureau of Land Management - has hatched a plan to sneak them out the backdoor and send them to slaughter.
Buried in President's proposed 2017 budget is a provision that allows the agency to strip these iconic animals of their protected status and turn them over to state and local authorities, which could then easily send them to "kill plants" in Mexico with no oversight whatsoever.
It's the latest in a long series of BLM shirking its responsibility to do as Congress and the American people have long demanded - humane preservation of wild horses and burros on their native range.
The BLM's "budget in brief" also outlines the agency's plans to pursue dangerous and inhumane spaying and gelding of wild horses - a direct contradiction to the National Academy of Sciences, which recommended a complete overhaul its failing approach to managing these cherished animals.
The proposals are in line with BLM's distorted view that there is an "unsustainable proliferation of wild horses" on federal lands. It's an exaggeration at its core - wild horses are present on just 12 percent of federal rangelands and are outnumbered by livestock by nearly 50-1 - and also a "problem" the agency has created for itself by refusing to manage wild horses and burros with available, science-based and humane fertility control vaccine.
Rather than let wild horses and burros roam in more substantial numbers, BLM keeps population numbers unnaturally low. The agency rounds up these animals with helicopters, driving thousands of mustangs off our public lands each year and putting them into feedlot pens - all at taxpayer expense.
According to the NAS, the BLM's management practices - an endless cycle of roundups and removals - "are facilitating high rates of population growth." The esteemed scientific body warned that continued "removals are likely to keep the population at a size that maximizes population growth rates, which in turn maximizes the number of animals that must be removed through holding facilities."
Nearly three years ago, The NAS recommended that the BLM utilize scientifically proven fertility control as an alternative to removals. Yet the agency's use of the available birth control vaccine - PZP - has actually declined, while the roundups continue.
Today the BLM warehouses as many wild horses in captivity as remain free in the wild, and their numbers grow every year as does the wild horse programs' budget - currently $80 million per year.
Which is why the BLM would just as soon take the easy way out and get rid of the horses. The agency's budget proposal would allow this by allowing BLM to transfer "excess" horses out of holding and into the hands of state and local managers, many of whom have even less love of the animals than the feds.
In its proposal, BLM asks permission to transfer these animals to other agencies so they might be used as "work animals" and remove their status as "wild free-roaming" horses and burros. With 47,000 horses and burros currently in captivity, it's unlikely many would find placement as work animals.
No, the key idea floated here is to classify wild animals as no longer wild, so they can be exported for slaughter. In essence, BLM's proposed provision is an end run around the current Congressional ban on the agency's sale of captured mustangs and burros for slaughter.
The impetus behind BLM's unsustainable approach to wild horse management and its resistance to reform is the powerful cattlemen's lobby, which views mustangs as competition for cheap taxpayer-subsidized grazing on public lands. But this is not the American public's view. Polls document that 3 out of 4 Americans support protecting wild horses and burros on public land, while 80 percent oppose horse slaughter.
It's time for the power of the people to prevail. Don't let BLM get away with stripping our iconic wild horses and burros of their protected legal status and laundering them through state and local agencies into the slaughter pipeline.
Tell Congress to protect America's wild horses and burros from BLM brutality. Sign and share the petition now!