Obama’s Abbey is a Leader?!?
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.
- APNewsBreak: BLM rejects Pickens horse rescue plan (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Congressman Dan Burton Tramples Wasteful Wild Horse Program (animals.change.org)
- Horse roundup near Pickens sanctuary criticized (bendbulletin.com)
- Pickens Responds to BLM Director’s Pro-Slaughter Stance (rtfitch.wordpress.com)
- Madeleine Pickens Responds To Obama’s BLM Slap In the Face (rtfitch.wordpress.com)
- Madeline Pickens Buys 14,000-Acre Ranch To Serve As Horse Sanctuary (ecorazzi.com)