Horse advocacy claims BLM stacked board with pro-slaughter membersWritten by Christy Martinez
One headline from the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) regarding the appointments reads: “Majority of Americans Ignored as Government Announces Appointment of Representatives of Special Interests that Stand to Profit at Expense of America’s Icons.”
“The BLM is stacking this public advisory board with members who have an extremist agenda to remove wild horses from public lands and reinstitute the cruel practice of horse slaughter in the U.S.,” said Suzanne Roy, AWHPC director. “BLM continues to ignore the wishes of the majority of the American public by rigging this citizen advisory board to set the stage for slaughtering the tens of thousands of mustangs that the agency has removed from public lands and stockpiled in government holding facilities.”
Leaders of a coalition of more than 45 wild horse advocacy groups wrote to BLM Director Bob Abbey to “object in the strongest of terms” to the new appointments to the nine-member board.
“It is apparent that the BLM is stacking this citizen advisory board with representatives of special interests that stand to profit from the capture and slaughter of America’s wild horses,” wrote Suzanne Roy, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign.
“Instead of releasing wild horses back to their legal homes, BLM seems to be setting the stage for a lethal solution,” said Craig Downer, wildlife ecologist for The Cloud Foundation out of Colorado Springs, Colo.
In response to the claims, BLM spokesman Tom Gorey said in an interview with The Associated Press, “Their apocalypse-now, sky-is-falling rhetoric is flagrantly dishonest and is clearly aimed at preventing the BLM from gathering horses from overpopulated herds on the range. The BLM is not ‘managing for extinction.’ There is no conspiracy to put down healthy horses that are in off-the-range holding facilities.”
Colorado appointee draws attention
The BLM chose Callie Hendrickson of Grand Junction, Colo. as a new appointee for the category of General Public; June C. Sewing of Cedar City, Utah as a new appointee for the category of Wild Horse and Burro Advocacy; and Boyd M. Spratling, DVM, of Deeth, Nev. as a re-appointee to the category of Veterinary Medicine. The individuals will each serve three-year terms.
Hendrickson is Executive Director of the White River and Douglas Creek Conservation Districts, and owner and consultant for E-Z Communications. As executive director of the conservation districts, the BLM says Hendrickson has extensive experience in addressing public rangeland health concerns for the Colorado Association of Conservation Districts. Her career is focused on natural resource policy development and education and she has served on the Colorado Foundation for Water Education, Mesa County 4-H Foundation, Mesa County Farm Bureau and the Mesa County Cattlewomen.
Hendrickson has drawn the attention of horse advocates through advocating for the sale of horses for slaughter at long-term holding facilities as a last resort, if they are older than 10 years or have been offered for adoption three times unsuccessfully.
Hendrickson told the AP she was “open” to other options, but not to leaving excess horses on the range.
“The rangeland cannot sustain such large numbers,” she said.
“Callie is very active with the local conservation districts with respect to their local horse situation, and she’s very intelligent and she keeps herself well-versed on the issues,” says Wyoming State Grazing Board Rangeland Consultant Dick Loper. “In my experience, she’s not biased to the point where horse groups should have that much of an issue. If they withdraw from the local situation, I think they’ll find she’ll be a very good board member.”
Of Spratling’s reappointment, Loper says, “Boyd has the interest and the health of both the land and the horse at heart.”
“I think Callie will surprise people by being a very active and objective participant in the issue,” adds Loper.
The Cloud Foundation Executive Director Ginger Kathrens claims it’s the second time in nine months that the BLM has replaced a mustang ally with someone who appears to “have little problem with lethal management of our wild horses.”
Member shares Wyo perspective
Wyoming has one representative remaining on the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board – brand inspector and rancher Gary Zakotnik of Farson, who represents livestock management.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m a livestock rep, and my major concern is protection of the resource,” says Zakotnik. “At some point we have to get control of this thing, and the first charge of the BLM is to protect the resource.”
Zakotnik says he doesn’t see anything new on the horizon, however.
“The Secretary is trying to appease the loud, vocal people, and the people who really know, and who really care, don’t have a voice with this administration,” he states. “With no controversy those groups can’t generate any funds.”
“I think that processing should be an option,” says Zakotnik of the overpopulation dilemma that faces wild horses.
“I don’t know that it ever will be an option,” he adds. “The advocacy groups would raise so much ire that I don’t think it would ever happen. The BLM has the authority, but they choose not to use it.”
The next meeting of the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board is in April, but Zakotnik is not optimistic that much will change.
“The powers-that-be will choose to ignore the Advisory Board, and they won’t put too much credence in what we recommend,” he says.