Jan 7, 2013 7:49 PM by Matt Stafford

Changes to BLM's Wild Horse Program may stem from Colorado incident

Changes are here for the Bureau of Land Management's Wild Horse and Burro Program; the BLM is charged with managing public land and the wild animals on it. A Colorado Springs activist for protecting wild horses and burros says she believes the changes come from a heated conversation Interior Secretary Ken Salazar - who's in charge of the BLM - had with a reporter about the program in November.

Secretary Salazar was at a get-out-the-vote event in Fountain, and he granted an interview to a Gazette reporter that was also reporting for ProPublica. Local filmmaker and director of the Cloud Foundation, Ginger Kathrens, joined in.

Kathrens says the reporter asked about the sale of 1,700 wild horses to a known advocate of horse slaughtering, Tom Davis; that's when Kathrens says Sec. Salazar got upset.

The cameras went down, but audio was still recording; it caught Salazar saying, "You know what? You do that to me again, I'll punch you out. Okay?"

Sec. Salazar has since apologized.

Now, fast forward to the present, there are new rules for the Wild Horse and Burro Program beginning immediately:

- No more than four wild horses and/or burros may be bought by a single individual or group within a six-month period without proper approval.

- When buying wild horses or burros, purchasers must describe where they intend to keep the animals for the first six months after purchase. Without prior approval the BLM won't sell more than four animals destined for a single location in a six-month period.

- Buyers have to provide transportation for the purchased animals from the BLM's short-term holding corrals or other locations to the new home.

- The BLM will inspect trailers and reserves the right to refuse loading if the trailer does not ensure the safety and humane transport of the animal.

Kathrens believes these changes are coming specifically because of what Sec. Salazar was being asked about at the time -- the sale of 1,700 horses that are now unaccounted for.

"I commend the BLM for making the changes, but my hope is that they will be carried out the way that the Secretary intends and that they won't be in some way circumvented," says Kathrens.

News 5 contacted the BLM to ask questions about the changes; communications officers in Colorado directed us to others in Washington D.C., but they haven't returned our calls. When News 5 gets a response we'll bring it to you.

In their press release about the changes, the BLM lists resources to report any inhumane treatment or sales to slaughterhouses of federally protected wild horses or burros. You can call in a report by calling 866-4MUSTANGS (866-468-7826), or you can send in an email to WILDHORSE@BLM.GOV.


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