By Nancy Lofholm of the Denver Post
Outspoken BLM Horse-Eater Attempts to Delude the Press
“Callie Hendrickson is a member of the Colorado Cow Club that has partnered with the BLM in it’s effort to zero out the West Douglas herd in northwest Colorado. Wild Horse Freedom Federation, the Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Coalition, the Cloud Foundation, Front Range Equine Rescue, Habitat for Horses and private citizen plaintiffs have been responsible for keeping the West Douglas horses free. To date, this has been an unprecedented success but a MEMBER of the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board is active in trying to end, forever, the existence of this herd. That speaks volumes to the “stacked deck” theory of the BLM’s Board. Many thanks to our plaintiffs, donors and sponsors for supporting this TRUE and LEGITIMATE win by these unified, registered 501(c)3 organizations. The horses of West Douglas run free thanks to your concern” ~ R.T.
GRAND JUNCTION, CO — Callie Hendrickson is a horsewoman. She grew up on a ranch. She was a professional horse trainer for seven years. She has owned as many as 35 horses at a time and currently has two that she rides for pleasure. Her eyes still redden when she talks about having to put down colts with broken legs decades ago.
But for a certain faction of horse lovers, Hendrickson is an evil advocate of horse slaughter. She is the unfeeling citizen adviser who would send thousands of wild horses to the glue factory, the dinner table or the dog food bowl.
Hendrickson, one of the newest appointees to the Bureau of Land Management’s national Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, shakes her head over that.
“I certainly don’t consider myself a horse hater. I am a realist,” she said as she slapped a hand on a sheet of figures documenting what she sees as the facts of the problem of too many wild horses on public lands. “My focus is on this.”
What she means by “this” are numbers that show the federal government in the past year spent nearly $60 million on gathering, removing and holding wild horses and burros from the 179 horse management areas that dot 10 Western states. There are currently more than 37,000 wild horses and burros in the wild, 11,000 more than the U.S. Bureau of Land Management estimates the management areas will sustain.
More than 46,000 horses and burros are being held in short-term corrals and long-term pastures. Attempts to have these horses adopted have fallen far short. Last year, 2,730 horses and burros were adopted at a cost of $7.1 million to the BLM.
Those numbers and the fact that horse herds in the wild can double every four years, have led Hendrickson, an otherwise unassuming middle-aged Grand Junction resident, to speak gas-on-the-fire words that horrify advocates who see wild mustangs as noble icons of the West and living symbols of history: “sell,” “slaughter” and “eat.”
“Selling a horse to go to slaughter would be my last choice,” Hendrickson said, after explaining why it may be part of a multifaceted solution to get the horse population under control and that it is more humane than letting them starve in the wild.
Hendrickson added, “I’ve never eaten horse meat. I never plan to. But I’m not going to tell someone else they can’t eat horse.”
Even the agency she advises as part of a nine-person board is removed from that view.
“We’ve taken the idea of selling for slaughter off the table. It is not an option,” said Tom Gorey, the BLM’s national wild horse specialist who called Hendrickson a highly qualified board member who will do the job of working toward consensus.
Hendrickson honed her no-nonsense belief about animal welfare growing up in the remote west end of Montrose County. One of her strongest memories is of raising 4-H steers, and, yes, she admits crying when they were auctioned to become beef.
She completed the Horse Training and Management program at Lamar Community College and has worked as a school teacher and an agriculture loan officer. She has training as a mediator and works as the part-time executive director of a northwest Colorado conservation district.
Look at any wild horse advocacy website or blog, and Hendrickson is painted with one broad brush. She is excoriated as the “pro-slaughter cattlewoman,” tagged as “anti-wild horse” and “inherently antagonistic to wild mustangs and burros.” She is called an advocate of “the mutilation of mares” for her views on spaying and as a proponent of “equine concentration camps.”
She sparked her own day of national protest on March 1 when thousands of wild-horse supporters heeded the urging of horse advocacy groups and called Interior Secretary Ken Salazar‘s office to lobby for Hendrickson’s removal from the board.
In the wake of that kind of criticism, Hendrickson has grown even bolder about drawing attention to what she calls the elephant in the room. That is the subject of using lethal control as one method of reining in the wild horse population.
“I think she should step up to the plate and resign,” said Ginger Kathrens, executive director of the Colorado Springs-based Cloud Foundation, a wild horse and burro advocacy group. “She knows very well she doesn’t represent the sentiments of the American people she was appointed to represent.”
Suzanne Roy, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, said she believes Hendrickson was put on the advisory board to represent the interests of the cattle industry and “to clear the path for the mass slaughter of wild horses who have been rounded up and removed from public lands.”
Roy’s group and other horse advocacy groups charge that the BLM is mismanaging wild horses and burros by decreasing the acreage they are allowed to roam on and by placing equine interests behind those of livestock grazing.
The groups’ fervid criticism of Hendrickson has only intensified lately as the wild horse situation has been roiled by new controversy. A wild horse buyer in southern Colorado is being investigated for allegedly buying large numbers of wild horses to sell for slaughter.
Hendrickson says she hopes her talk of using what some consider extreme measures to control herd sizes may spark horse advocates and the agency she advises to get more creative about the problem.
Her bottom line is that before the horses can be managed in healthy herds, their numbers must be reduced through birth- control, relaxing adoption rules so more horses can be sold and adopted, and creating more sanctuaries on private lands.
She would like to explore the creation of a “virtual adoption” program. Those who want to save horses could pay ranchers an annual fee to care for them.
“Right now we are in crisis mode,” she said. “We need to truly start managing horses.”
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