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The HSUS Criticizes BLM's Rejection of Madeleine Pickens’ Wild Horse Solution

Congressman Calls Decision a “Bureaucratic Nightmare” and Threatens BLM Budget Cut

The Humane Society of the United States strongly criticized the Bureau of Land Management’s  decision to reject a proposal by philanthropist and wild horse advocate Madeleine Pickens to create an eco-sanctuary for America’s mustangs. Her plan would be one important component within a broader plan to fix the agency’s broken wild horse and burro management program and to allow the BLM to demonstrate that it is listening to the American public.

The BLM announcement came only weeks after Director Bob Abbey stated publicly that the agency would pursue public and private partnerships in an effort to put the federal government’s dysfunctional wild horse management program on a more sustainable track.

Back in 2008, Pickens first offered to help create life-time sanctuaries for thousands of wild horses and burros currently housed in the BLM’s short- and long-term holding facilities. At the time, the BLM had announced that it might euthanize and sell for slaughter thousands of wild horses, due to a fiscal crisis caused by its failed management policies and programs. Since then, the BLM and Pickens’ foundation, Saving America’s Mustangs, have been working together in an attempt to develop a partnership that would provide homes for wild horses and educate the public about the need to preserve and protect these icons of the American West, while at the same time saving taxpayer dollars. 

“The BLM continues to have opportunities to gain ground with the public and to turn its broken wild horse program around, but it continues to deliver self-inflicted wounds,” said Wayne Pacelle, The HSUS’ president and CEO. “The BLM claims that it wants to engage in public-private partnerships, but if the agency refuses to work with a private partner as passionate and creative as Madeleine Pickens, it begs the question: With whom can this agency work?”  

Just today, U.S. Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., shared his outrage at the agency’s decision. On the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, he stated, “This is another bureaucratic nightmare that we in this Congress should not—and I don't believe will—put up with. And I'm going to ask the Appropriations Committee to cut the budget of the Bureau of Land Management because they're wasting the taxpayers' money by millions and millions and maybe hundreds of millions of dollars … We ought to cut the Bureau of Land Management's budget so that we can save the money and save the mustangs. That's what this is all about—a humane way of treating the mustangs in this country, which are a part of our heritage.”

The BLM’s rejection of Pickens’ wild horse eco-sanctuary comes on the heels of the agency’s rejection of a more modest proposal from Pickens to provide short- and long-term holding for more than 2,000 wild horses scheduled to be removed from Antelope Valley Herd Management Complex in northeast Nevada between Jan. 24 and Feb 28. Pickens’ proposal would save taxpayers thousands of dollars, but the agency refused to postpone the scheduled roundup.

The HSUS has been working with the agency on a contraceptive program to keep wild horses on the range and to control reproduction. But the agency has been too slow to roll out that program, and the agency continues to round up and remove thousands of wild horses, creating a financial burden that the government is going to be hard pressed to meet for years to come.


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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.