Horse News

Revenge of the Bureau of Land Management

by George Knapp as printed in Las Vegas City Life

Obama’s Abbey is a Leader?!?

Bob Abbey got his itty-bitty, teeny-weenie feelings hurt

Should an agency of the federal government be able to conduct business on behalf of American taxpayers based on mood swings, capricious whims, and hissy fits? Is petulance an appropriate reaction for the head of a sprawling agency which plays a vital role in the daily life of our country?

I ask these broad questions because I don’t want some readers to tune out once they see the words “wild horses” in this column. Yeah, I know. I write about the mustangs a lot. But this isn’t a column about poor horsies shivering in the cold or staring at you with those big, sad eyes. This is about how government works, who it is beholden to, and why our country is seemingly unable to solve any problem. What’s happening at the Bureau of Land Management makes the agency a poster child for all that is wrong with government. Politicians can promise change and reform, but it is the career civil servants, the immovable, unyielding bureaucrats who decide what does or does not get done in Washington.

You may have read a few days ago BLM Director Bob Abbey issued a death sentence for a proposed wild horse eco-sanctuary in Northern Nevada. This is the plan touted for the last three years by businesswoman and philanthropist Madeleine Pickens, wife of oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens. The Associated Press reported Friday Abbey released a statement that rejected the Pickens plan for a wild horse sanctuary, saying “it would not save taxpayers any money and doesn’t include enough water and grazing area for the mustangs.”

Sounds like a fairly definitive statement from the BLM, right? The AP isn’t known for getting its stories completely wrong, especially when those stores are based on released statements, as opposed to interviews wherein someone can be misquoted, which is the favorite excuse of bureaucrats who screw up and say something they later regret. Is it possible the venerable AP got is story completely and totally wrong, that it misread the statement altogether?

I think if someone were to ask Abbey what he meant to say, they would find out that the Pickens plan is not really dead after all and that Abbey didn’t really say any such thing to a reporter. Maybe Abbey really was misquoted (doubtful), or maybe he changed his mind (possible) or maybe he realized that his decision smacked of pettiness and hurt feelings. Whatever the case, Abbey has told folks in Washington that he did not declare the Pickens plan to be dead and is willing to talk about it more. Beware the tempter tantrum of a lifelong bureaucrat with tears in his eyes and a pout on his mug. Poor widdle guy.

How do I know Abbey’s words were poorly chosen and spoken in haste? Because they are total bullshit, and BLM knows it. For the past few months, Abbey and others from the Interior Department have been bragged again and again about their plans to create public/private partnerships. A mere three weeks ago in Las Vegas, Abbey said the Pickens plan had merit and that he had high hopes for it.

As for the claims the plan won’t work, again BLM knows better. Back In December, BLM honchos met in Elko with the Pickens folks to hash out the details. They basically decided then and there to green light the ecosanctuary, starting with 1,000 horses that are now being warehoused in short-term holding corrals. The math is inescapable. It costs the government — read, taxpayers — $5.75 per day to feed a single horse in short-term holding. The horses that would be turned over to Pickens’ sanctuary would cost only $1.75 per day. Moving those initial 1,000 horses from government corrals into an ecosanctuary would save BLM $1.6 million in the first year, not a huge amount but a good start for this pilot program.

And the BLM has 40,000 will horses in its facilities. It spends tens of millions every year just to feed them. And the statement that there isn’t enough water or forage for horses on the land purchased by Pickens is so patently false that it is embarrassing to hear Abbey make such a claim. Pickens bought two ranches with 18,000 deeded acres and more than 500,000 leased public acres attached.

There isn’t enough food and water for 1,000 horses on more than half a million acres? Ridiculous. Makes one wonder how cattle ranchers have raised vast herds of cows on the same land for more than half a century. Gold mines adjacent the Pickens land have to divert tens of thousands of gallons of groundwater every single hour just to keep from being flooded. There’s plenty of water, and more than enough forage, which means Abbey has resorted to simply making stuff up as a reason to dismiss the Pickens plan.

When I say it stems from sheer petulance, I’m not kidding. BLM keeps saying the Pickens idea is promising but keeps coming up with new hoops for Pickens to jump through. She has done everything they’ve asked, put a pile of her own money on the barrel, and still can’t get BLM to give her the green light. The latest monkey wrench is the order from BLM that Pickens spend $250,000 on a 15-month engineering and environmental assessment, and when that’s finished, she might have to pony up for a full environmental impact statement, which requires another year or so.

Pickens is not used to operating at government speed. This latest stall tactic from BLM suggested to her that the agency will happily drag this out as long as possible, make it as expensive as possible, and even then there are no guarantees. BLM is quite happy to spend millions a year on the same old strategy of rounding up horses, stashing them in corrals, and caring for them until they die. Pickens decided to make her point by taking out full page ad in Politico which criticized BLM;s foot dragging.

The very next day, Abbey announced that the Pickens plan, the same one he had touted for weeks, was dead. Or maybe not. So you tell me, why did he do it?

I get the feeling the BLM is not comfortable dealing with a strong woman like Pickens. To have her take out a newspaper ad criticizing BLM was to much for the bureaucrats to handle. Even though the pilot program is solid on every level, BLM stands ready to kill it because the agency’s feelings are hurt.

That, in nutshell, is what’s wrong with government.

George Knapp is a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter for KLAS-TV Channel 8. You can reach him at

65 replies »

  1. Go Madeline. Make the BLM accountable for every last dollar, for every last word and every last horse they have condemned to suffer and die under their lack of careless management. I hope that more embaressing exposure will wake up the American people out of their stupor that the government does everything correctly. Kudos to Madeline for her verve and bravery go toe to toe with the incompentencies of the BLM. I’m voting for Madeline, the Wild Mustangs and Burros and all the wildlife from suffering anymore.


  2. Not sure these horses will survive these lifer bureaucrats who refuse to retire, refuse to consider new ways of working and refuse to treat horses or the American people with anything other than disdain.


    • Yes ! savewildhorses Their one track mind is their worst enemy…………. not to mention their Betraying assaults on the horses that built the west undeniably , lies, and Criminal actions………They have enough rope maybe they will hang themselves………………….


      • RT we have a problem: Those of us on face book were discussing The American wild horse conservation campaign and the response website to BLM So we can forward our displeasure of currant events in regard to roundup in a particular area by which Bob Abbey lied about not going to happen when in fact it did. Any way the Website has been block and we are under the impression that those of us who submitted letter via web are on a list of blocked senders. Can you look into it? please? Also You tube yesterday I posted five questions to president and they I think only answered one. I couldn’t get the video because of Time warner cable problem. Questions were signed under nursediesle. Thank You


  3. Bob Abbey and his lying bunch of corrupt cowardly cruel lying low lives rip off the American People and have destroyed our public lands for their WELFARE CATTLE cronies. How much lower can one sink than running a cruel racket that preys on defenseless horses.


  4. From: jvelez@
    Sent: 1/27/2011 9:40:22 P.M. Mountain Standard Time
    Subj: Re: Dynamite piece from George

    Madeleine Pickins will be on Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell on HLN Friday January 28th at 730 pm to discuss horse roundup and problems with Interior Dept. Spread the word!


    • 7:30 what time zone? Should I presume EST since HLN is based in Washington DC? When posting times for something, everyone please remember to post the time zone, I’ve missed some good shows because of time zone differences. If something is on at 7pm EST I know to tune in at 6pm my time (CST) or 5pm (MST) etc. I’ll check back here in a few hours, because we would love to catch this article. (I missed the Good Morning America series on the mustangs because of not knowing what time). Thanks!


    • 7:30 what time zone? Shall I presume EST since HLN is based in Washington DC? Please remember everyone to post time zones so we can all make adjustments and catch these articles. Thanks!


  5. This is the first time I have read anything by G. Knapp and I am very favorably impressed. Hopefully he will follow up, This is the kind of information that must be disseminated far and wide to the general public. He didn’t say much that those of us here didn’t already realize but most other people are not aware of. His email is at the bottom of the article so let him know we appreciate his efforts.

    My admiration for Madeleine grows with each passing day, she is simply amazing! We can find hope in her persistence and dedication and support her at every turn in every way we can.

    Some of the most dangerous entities in our government system are the entrenched, mostly faceless bureaucrats that have been around so long they have become almost incapable of seeing reason and logic if it interferes in some way with what they want to do, whatever their own reasons might be. Many of them have developed their own power structures and even when shown to be totally incompetent or even corrupt, are nearly impossible to get rid of due to the built civil service job protection they enjoy.


  6. Great article! As has been said many times, the wild horses and burros are “the tip of the iceberg” of an agency that’s the very definition of corruption and cronisim, and has been since it’s inception. They could get away with allot of incompetence and backroom dealing, because they knew their non-governmental “partners in crime” would be the last to out them.

    But more and more people ACROSS THE ENTIRE U.S. are waking up to the fact the agency isn’t the “Bureau of Land Management”. It’s the “Bureau of Land Exploitation”, and up to it’s neck in an “art” which, ironically, our government DOES do well … the art of the dirty deal!


  7. Good piece. So much for our authoritarian style of govt. Goddess forbid a woman should wield any power in a situation or threaten the little weenies of the world. Things change ever ever so slowly.


  8. Ha! When is the last time they did an HONEST environmental study themselves?

    Power seems to turn many bureacrates into bullies in suits. And if they aren’t a bully, do they have the courage to stand up to their colleague or worse, boss, who is? Do they have what it takes to tell that subordinate that the job is supposed to be civil (and they should be civil) and servant (and that means serve the people not bully them.)

    Come to think of it, that whole bully in schools issue people often mistake as ‘just a thing kids go through’ may be the most dangerous thing of all. We get used to either being bullied or bullying so young. What would the world be like if right from the start kids were taught bullying: whether it’s physical or psychological or someone abusing their position is to be resisted and is wrong? Maybe then these bureacratic bullies would go the way of the DODO themselves.


  9. I repeat a statement I’ve used many times before. I love you George. No offense to your private life (spouse or partner–whichever term you prefer–trying to PC here). You seem to nail things right on the head everytime


  10. George Knapp wrote this Brilliantly( As all his Writings) My Huge Kudos to this Man who has the knowledge to defend Our Wild Mustangs with such vigor and honestly !!!!!!………..George Knapp my hat is off to you and my arm is up and my lighter is lit !!!!!!!


  11. What Mr. George Knapp wrote should be in every Newspaper in the US right on the Front page !!!!!! The People of the US should be reading this !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Media Please pick this story uP…………………..This is the real deal !!!!!!!!!!! The Truth will Set Our Mustangs FREE>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


  12. Bob Abbey’s efforts to drag things out with this sanctuary are particularly
    troubling because the BLM often gives mining expansions a
    FONSI (Finding Of No Significant Impact) and was found by the
    GAO to be doing too many CXs (Categorical Exclusions) and to be
    acting outside the law.


      • When Salazar & Abbey get through with Nevada 2/3 of it will be not be fit for man or beast to live there !! In recent months, the BLM has approved six renewable energy projects on public lands in Nevada—three solar, two geothermal and one wind—
        as well as a long-distance transmission line.. You can go to their web site and read all about the ” Fast Track” tactic that is being done in order to be eligible for STIMULIS FUNDING !!

        additionally , The Ruby Pipeline ,alone will destroy vast areas of pristine wilderness in northwestern Nevada, formerly home to the wild horses and burros of the Calico Mountains. as Georgr Knapp reported ,Ruby Project Coordinator Lars Ecklund said during an April 16 meeting, reported on by the Klamath Falls Herald and News: “Don’t think we’re going to put this pipe in without making a mess . . . It’s going to look like Hiroshima. It’s going to look nasty.”

        Plus , Chinese government money is buying one of U.S.A.’s biggest mines about 23 miles northwest of Eureka, NV..’s-biggest-mines/

        There is just no end !!!!


    • This could also be used to allow horses on grazing allotments… since it is a policy change and not law. BLM does these things as they please and this could be accomplished the same way. Sign a paper and horses are there…. If BLM wants us to step up and take over they need to accommodate us. When they push us up against a wall with no alternatives we have to fight them. This is where so much could be accomplished quickly and efficiently. But they have placed themselves against all that we are working for and against us in particular. Very foolish of them. mar


  13. “I pledge Allegiance to the Wild Equines of the United States of American and to the Icon for which they stand, one symbol, understood, undeniable, with liberty and freedom for all.” ~ R.T. Fitch That says it all for me!!!


  14. If there is any Justice or Revenge the horses should have it Hands up, without a doubt. I can picture all of the BLM drinking water from a small puddle, when fenced off from them is a huge Lake…………………… and herding them into a penned area after they have run for hours over Rockie terrain, have there children yanked from them , I see them roped and tied left to die in the Hot sun……………… Their necks broken because they live to be free………………….. Then being carded of in a trunk packed like sardines. Thrown into pens, that are disease ridden………….. Most of all that they be haunted by all the horses they have maimed and needlessly murdered for the sport of it , in their barbaric Round ups…………………..And that they be supervised for the rest of their lives , in caring for the Horses they have Betrayed……………………


  15. The spirit of America, or lack there of:

    All the barbaric murdering of innocent animals, Wild Mustangs, Burros that have every God created right to occupy the lands that were first stolen from the Native Americans, all for the “almighty” federal reserve fiat dollar….

    Where have all the good men gone….

    If JFK were alive today he would be quoting….
    Ask not what the Wild Mustangs can and did for you, but what you can do for the Wild Mustangs….


    • Yes Ironhorse , if JFK were here Our Mustangs would be safe and free, Funny i was just thinking about JFK and what his take would be on this !!!!!! I know what his take would be , because our Wild Ones were safest during his Presidency !!!!! It takes a Dignified Brain to realize the Importance of these Wonderful cherished Animals mean not only to us that love them , but their importance in vast scheme of things…. To recognize this fact is human,…..Its not hard to calculate this…………..History is our Reference…………………It never lies to us it repeats itself………………………These uneducated(or lack there of) people who think otherwise have a rude awaking coming……………….. Because the Mustangs are here to stay and we are their insurance…………………………


  16. George Knapp has done his homework, and as a Teacher he gets an A from me. This offer by Madeline Pickens is such a wonderful and selfless gesture that it should have been put to use the moment she put the offer on the table. The BLM is such a terrible organization. I’ve dealt with them in the past and found them to be a heartless group of individuals that really don’t care about the horses, only the financial part of dealing with them. Weather they go to safety or to slaughter, it doesn’t matter to them. I would love to see Mrs. Pickens’ idea implemented ASAP, environmental impact study done AFTER the first horses are put into the stated areas. I really don’t see any environmental impact at all actually, because the land belongs to the horses and has for hundreds of years. Let’s get our heads on straight and push for what Madeline Pickens is pushing for. She has spent a boatload of her own money for an idea which would save US, the taxpayers, lots of our own money, plus benefit the Mustangs. It is a no brainer. Get the horses out of the feedlots and holding pens where they are costing us lots of tax monies and put them back on the range where they belong.


    • I cannot help but wonder why so many advocates think Madeleine is saving our wild horses. She wants to care for removed horses… gelded stallions and none reproducing mares. She is only just beginning to use her influence to help stop roundups.

      The advocacy is about stopping the roundups. That is where we ‘save the wild horses.’ Madeleine has begun to help more in this direction now, but the Mustang Monument is for horses who will not have families ever again. It is none existent at this time and we Need more advocates to return to the concerns of the round ups and the deaths of horses in STH as WE must continue to hold BLM accountable for all that befalls horses from the moment a helicopter first lifts off in an HMA. We have people in the field and they have need of your support.

      Advocates continue to splinter into more and more groups and horses are less the focus as Madeleine side tracks many from the wild ones coming off their range to the fate of LTH horses who are relatively safe. This is not an opinion it is an observation. mar


      • I’ve been getting multiple pedicures! 🙂 …especially when one is trying to put a toe, foot, leg, etc in the door at DOI.


      • What you see as advocates splintering, I see as people addressing all the issues in the wild horse debacle from lawsuits, to observation rights, to the stockpiling and suffering of horses, the work being done to stop the round ups, media attention and education of the public. People may choose any angle, as each needs addressing and all are welcome. Madeleine could be a lady who lunches on Fifth Avenue, but she chose to do this with her time and money instead. God bless her.


  17. If anyone here would like to join a group of serious, positive, action-oriented advocates, who are working on public awareness, propaganda control, saving wild horses, rescuing horses, lobbying, writing legislation, and other very important issues that apply to at-risk horses, please join the Facebook page, “I Oppose Slaughter of Horses in the USA”, and we’ll meet you there with more information. RT’s a member, and we rely on his terrific articles for the latest news. Or, send your name to me at, and I’ll add your name to our group of 1025 and growning. Welcome, all.


  18. GO, Madeleine!! Fight back, push back!! You have supporters. While NO “plan” is perfect, Madeleine’s is at least a start in the right direction, WHY are they fighting her? Because they’re STUPID IDIOTS!! They do, however, need to keep some breeding stallions in the mix, just to keep the herds strong & genetically viable, to prevent them from dying out & becoming extinct in the wild. Is THAT what they’re afraid of? Afraid of “losing the fight”?? Our government, with a few exceptions, preys on the unwary, unknowing public, until they actually believe “them” & think what they’re doing is right! Don’t “they” work for us? Then how can they decide how to spend OUR tax dollars, &, on what, without OUR approval?? Keep on fighting back!!


  19. BTW…this post isn’t about MP, per se…it’s about the nasty at DOI, specifically BLM and the implication that this is the “corporate culture” at many agencies that fail to do their jobs….which in the long run costs lives AND MONEY.


  20. Woe is the day when the wild horse and burro advocacy throws itself behind a wanna be Long Term Holding contractor while a few brave souls stand in the cold and watch our wild horses driven for many miles by helicopters, taking photos and video and relaying what they see everyday they are there. How can you deny their commitment or their sincerity? You will use their information and yet not lend support to them because what they do is controversial to you (yet useful, certainly).

    Thinking a LTH facility would ‘keep a few stallions’ is counter to what BLM LTH is all about. No breeding, no foals. That has been what your new leader is about. Can you get her to change her stripes?? mar


    • Apparently I have been under the silly illusion that it was all tied together and that most of us (advocates for keeping the wild herds wild) basically wanted the same thing. That thing being to STOP the BLM and its cruel, inhumane roundups and removals so the wild ones could be left in their natural environments as much as possible and as I think was originally intended by the 1971 act of congress. Anyone who knows wild horses and the band/family orientation of their daily lives must understand not only the physical damage being done but also the psychological trauma these horses are going through. The physical may heal given time but the psychological aspect can affect them for the rest of their lives no matter where they end up. I know because I have one that was injured by a cougar attack when he was four months old and very traumatized by the loss of his mother at the same time when the cat killed her as she tried to defend him while he fled. He is going on 14 now and does well but I can sense the wildness just beneath the surface that can be triggered by who knows what or when. Sorry, I apologize for digressing.

      What I want, and I believe most of us want, is to stop the BLM in its tracks, now before it is too late. But I do not have the resources or influence to do that and the big money power brokers that are in control are ignoring all of our protests. Time is on their side and they know if they keep doing what they are doing the end result will be irreversible but they do not care about that.

      As much as I hate to say it, we are steadily losing our battle because we are being ignored and marginalized in favor of huge mining projects, and I think to a somewhat lesser degree depending on the region but still influential, cattle and sheep owners that want to use the land. Right now in Nevada anyway it appears to be mining that has the lead rope and they seem to be getting a pass on the impact their current and future operations have on the environment.

      Though MP’s end goals may diverge somewhat from ours, if what she is doing can help us accomplish ours by bringing more light on the whole picture and getting more of the public energized, I support her even though I do object to sterilization and non-breeding populations as being contrary to the intent of Nature.

      Just some of my thoughts, no offense intended. WO


      • Bumper sticker on a big, black Suburban:

        !!! EARTH FIRST !!! (we’ll mine the other planets later)

        Maybe Bob Abbey was in town?


      • Dear Wambil okiye you are right !!!! The bottom line is the horses still suffer physiologically, these wounds may never heal, that is why we must step this up a whole bunch, My heart breaks for the Horses, they are innocent , and they suffer because the Justice sucks, lives and family units are at stake here…..There should be some kind of injunction to make them stop until this can be handled,, whoops wrong word corrected , because this is a clear unnecessary action, which is a Criminal Action by The BLM>………………..Which is punishable by Law………………………………………..


      • It wouldnt matter whether a Woman or a man to the BLM , They portray that they are God Like and Have God like Powers………………..They definitely need to be put in there damn place, they are Paid to be Horse Protectors, do they not understand this??????????????????If they dont understand they need to be told in no uncertain terms they are not God Like and the people of America are there BOSSES, and they will not Stand for there defiance any longer , either do your Job or face the Consequences…………………………


  21. I never thought of the Pickins plan as the perfect solution, but the whole deal started when the BLM said they couldn’t afford the horses in LTH and they were considering euthanizing them. THOSE are the horses she was offering to take, and they’re non-reproducing already.

    We are going to have to have sanctuaries for reproducing horses as well – it just won’t be THIS sanctuary. I would MUCH prefer the horses remain on their lands, but having them on sanctuaries is certainly the lesser of two evils.


    • Yes, and we do need different places for the wild ones removed now and those we may be able to re-free…sooner or later. There is not just one solution!! I have never implied mine was the answer or that MadP should not do a LTH facility. Thank you, Suzanne… SWH, as you said there are many angles.. and WO we should be looking beyond MadP as she is not the only answer, as Suzanne has just pointed out. mar


      • Mar …. I don’t think I even implied that I thought MP has the only answer and made it clear what I want to see take place, only that if her visibility can help us stop the BLM now or sooner then she should have our support. If we can get the roundups stopped that could be a large step in the right direction. And BTW, I have read the many positive comments you have posted. 🙂 WO


  22. Do you really think I said that… ?

    This is what went on at Antelope today….

    I am not anti MadP so please reread and see the positive things I have said…

    ALL toes are welcome… just urging support for those who DO not just for those who plan…



    • And, if you can stand it, watch this one as well:

      According to the caption, these SEVEN horses were chased for an hour and a half. If they’re spending this much time on SEVEN horses, how many are out there?


      • I have watched this kind of video before and just now watched this one plus some of the others. How those sub-human scum can live with themselves after a day’s “work” is beyond me. The foal the so-called wranglers double roped (which I thought there was a rule against doing) was obviously exhausted, frightened and confused from being chased by that heroic helicopter pilot and separated from its mother and the rest of its band, probably for the rest of its life then jammed into that trailer though it was plainly scared to death to enter …. Where do they find people willing to lower themselves to do that sort of thing? Just sickening and does cause the anger to boil just beneath the surface. I am afraid I could not just sit and watch in person without doing something to stop them, but that is just the way I am so I stay away. Everyone involved in these operations whether they work for the BLM or contractors should instead of being paid by our tax dollars, be in prison for cruel and inhumane, absolutely needless and senseless treatment of these living beings. The fact these horrendous roundups were ever conceived in the first place as a management methodology and are now being conducted with impunity in spite of valid alternatives is …. unspeakable!


      • Not many. Have you read Laura’s reports on GrassRoots/Herd Watch? They spent a couple of days before the roundup looking for horses and couldn’t even find any. The idea that those few horses could be over populating the range is obscene.


    • I really dont think Madeliene is the answer and have never thought she was but she is definitely the lesser of the two evils………………………..Our Mustangs Are Free to roam , because America people want it that way……… and the R.O.A.M of 1971 says so it is the LAW !!!! There should be no other Question…………..I never thought of Our Mustangs being a stinkin circus act for any one individual. Sorry !!!!! TO ME FREEDOM FOR THE MUSTANGS IS WHAT I WANT FOR THEM !!!! I only support MP because again, because it is Lesser of the Two EVILS


      • Actually, Arlene, the ROAM Act isn’t law. It only passed in the House and ever even got a hearing in the Senate. I ain’t holding my breath for it to EVER be law.

        I want the horses to be free on the range too, but a sanctuary is better than a French dinner plate.


      • Then I hope all of you who think Madeleine has something to offer tell her she needs to be supporting breeding bands returned to the wild and continue to stop the roundups. I have. mar


Care to make a comment?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.