TCF STRESSES NEED FOR PROTECTIVE LANGUAGE IN BLM’S transfer PROPOSAL
EASY FIXES IN WORDING WILL DEMONSTRATE GOOD INTENTIONS OF BLM
COLORADO SPINGS, CO (Feb. 12, 2016) - As described by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to the Cloud Foundation (TCF) this week, the BLM is attempting to increase adoptions of four and five year-old horses currently in short-term holding facilities by offering them to other government agencies. Currently BLM wild horses can only be offered to individuals. BLM states that this ability will create more time for BLM staff to work on other pressing issues, decrease the costs of holding, and provide a higher quality of life for the horses placed with agencies. With this in mind, they submitted the following language for inclusion in the President’s 2017 Budget:
TRANSFER OF EXCESS ANIMALS
SEC. 110. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of the Interior may transfer excess wild horses or burros that have been removed from the public lands to other Federal, State, and local government agencies for use as work animals: Provided, That the Secretary may make any such transfer immediately upon request of such Federal, State, or local government agency: Provided further, That any excess animal transferred under this provision shall lose its status as a wild free-roaming horse or burro as defined in the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.
While TCF strongly supports efforts to remove horses from languishing in short-term holding facilities and agrees that serving a worthwhile purpose is best for the horses, the Colorado-based non-profit is concerned about the wording of the proposed amendment to the WH&B Act.
“The vague wording of this proposal, and the ability of agencies to obtain instant ownership raises some red flags,” states TCF Executive Director, Ginger Kathrens. “We are recommending that language be added to ensure that the horses do not lose any protections currently provided them under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (the Act).* In so doing BLM will allay any fears as to the sincerity of this change to the Act. TCF also recommends that, like the individual adopters, the agencies would not receive title/ownership for one year.”
“Adding this protective language should reduce public skepticism, and increase the chances that these young horses will truly be placed in appropriate ‘jobs’ where they can express their natural toughness and intelligence,” states TCF Board Member and wild horse adopter, Lisa Friday. “Any legitimate agency should not take issue with these protective clauses and we do not believe this will increase the work load for BLM employees, so it should be a win-win-win for the horses, the BLM, and the agencies adopting the animals.”
BLM believes, and TCF agrees, that appropriately trained wild horses will have a higher quality of life working for agencies such as the U.S. Border Patrol, US Marine Corps, and local Search and Rescue units for instance, than they would in short-term holding corrals. However, TCF sees no reason for these wild horses to lose their protected status under the Act.
“We are also suggesting that the implementing language will include some oversight language,” Kathrens continues. “The agency applications to adopt wild horses should include the type of ‘work’ for which the animals will be used.” TCF is recommending an evaluation process and strict oversight be in place before any transfers to agencies occurs.
BLM has indicated that the language already submitted for the President’s 2017 budget cannot be changed. They indicate that communication regarding concerns should be sent directly to members of the Appropriations Committee at this time as well as other Legislative Representatives. Process and procedures on the implementation process may be suggested once the President’s budget is passed.
*The current adoption agreement contains the following language which TCF feels should apply to agency adoptions as well. "Under penalty of prosecution for violating 18 U.S.C. 1001, which makes it a Federal crime to make false statements to any agency of the United States, I hereby state that I have no intent to sell this wild horse or burro for slaughter or bucking stock, or for processing into commercial products, within the meaning of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, 16 U.S.C. 1331 et seq., and regulations 43 CFR 4700.0-5(c)."