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Maybe A Starter Sanctuary of 10,000 Wild Horses for Pickens

Ocracoke Wild Ponies

Maybe instead of creating a sanctuary for all 33,000 wild horses currently in federal holding pens, as Madeleine Pickens proposed in 2008, she’ll just take 10,000. The smaller version may help “establish credibility,” she told a group of reporters and supporters at a Manhattan breakfast Wednesday.

She senses resistance is weakening at the Bureau of Land Management, which controls the horses and spends $29 million a year keeping them in holding areas.

So far, however, the BLM just keeps collecting more wild horses, something animal advocates hoped would stop after President Obama took office. In Defense of Animals announced Tuesday that BLM is already starting to round up 12,000 horses this year in Nevada. That means we’ll end 2010 with roughly 63%–or nearly two-thirds of our wild horses (including expected foals)–kept in holding facilities, mostly in Oklahoma and Kansas. Even if BLM lets Pickens take care of 10,000 horses, we’d still be worse off (as judged by the size of our wild horse menagerie) than when Obama took office.

The Obama Administration has come up with a rival option known as Salazar’s Plan, named after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who is thought to be too cozy with cattlemen. It would cost $96 million to create for two of seven preserves he would put in the east and Midwest. Pickens says those would accommodate just 7,000 horses. Somehow I think taxpayers would prefer Pickens’ option, in which she supplies the land and manages the horses and the feds just pay her $500 a year per horse, about what we pay to keep them in long-term holding.

We’ve heard very few details about the federal plan and Salazar’s op-ed in the LA Times didn’t clear much up. I thought it was churlish for a cabinet member to drop the line “to allow wild horse herds to grow beyond the limit of the range — as some wild horse advocates and celebrities are arguing…” Nobody wants to overcrowd the horses, of course. They just don’t want the agency giving the only land horses can legally graze on to cattle ranchers. Wildhorsepreservation calculates the horse’s area has been cut by 36%.

But the horse advocates in the room thought it was great Salazar was at least talking about horses and the need to use contraceptives to control the herd. It’s certainly a lot better than the 2005 plan to sell them to slaughter. But we’ve got a long way to go to bring these plans together.

Where to go to see wild horses

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