by R.T. Fitch
In a recent People.pets article legendary country performer Willie Nelson was quoted as asking, “Why are there more horses asses than there are horses?” The celebrity’s frustration is echoed across the country as the federal government’s Bureau of Land Management are rounding up the last remaining wild horses and burros from public land and placing them in holding pens by the thousands.
The ill advised roundup of 2,600 wild horses in Nevada’s Calico mountains began last month against the advice of a US Federal Judge. The BLM plans on rounding up, at taxpayers expense, 12,000 additional horses and add them to the pens holding 33,000 horses at this time. This places more horses in detainment than are free by the BLM’s own accounting. 70 percent of the agency’s $40.6 million budget goes towards holding wild horses in a state of permanent imprisonment.
Some 68 horses call Willie Nelson’s ranch home, over 30 were rescued from slaughter and adopted from Habitat for Horses where Willie sits on the Board of Directors. Adding to Willie’s voice, in behalf of the horses, are Willie’s daughter Amy, singer Sheryl Crow, actors Viggo Mortensen, Ed Harris, Bo Derrick as well as the famed Playboy models Shane and Sia Barbi. All have raised their voices in asking the President for a moratorium on the roundups and written Congress on behalf of the horses.
Equine advocacy groups such as the Equine Welfare Alliance, Habitat for Horses and the Cloud Foundation are outraged that the Calico Roundup is taking place in the dead of winter, a time when wild horses are trying to conserve their energy. “It is inconceivable that the BLM would consider chasing wild horses down frozen mountain sides with a helicopter in the winter,” stated Habitat for Horses Rep. Terry Fitch before a BLM Advisory meeting last month “It is short of nothing but cruel.”
Emmy award winning cinematographer, Ginger Kathrens of the Cloud foundation is of the opinion that there are other forces at work that are driving the BLM to strip wild horses from public lands, in the case of the Calico herd it may be the Ruby Pipeline natural gas project that coincidently will snake it’s way through the same area that the horses are currently being removed. Kathren s has brought the issue and plight of our wild horses to many through her PBS Nature series: Cloud, Wild Stallion of the Rockies.
“The bottom line is that this agency (BLM) has got to come clean” Kathrens says. “They have to be made accountable at Congressional hearings. I think we’re just being hoodwinked while losing something so precious and spectacular.”
Many others agree, The Equine Welfare Alliance and the Cloud Foundation have circulated a petition with tens of thousands of signatures asking the President to put a stop to the roundups while an independent agency attempts to make sense of the BLM’s ever changing numbers.
To date the White House has remained silent on the subject while Willie’s question still goes begging, “Why are there more horses asses than horses.”