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02/29/2012

Guest Post: Your tax money pays for capturing wild horses! That sucks!  »

It’s tax season! Hooray! Unless you owe the government money, in which case, boo!

In honor of this wonderful/horrendous season, I’ll be taking an occasional look at some of the excellent and also awful programs your tax money supports. Doesn’t that sound fantastic/terrible?

Have you heard of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)? It is a section of the Department of the Interior that manages 245 million acres of public land across the country. On about 26 million of these acres live wild horses, which the BLM occasionally rounds up, imprisons, and sells off to private buyers in an effort to “maintain the integrity of the land” on which the horses live, graze, and mate. Those that are not sold are kept in holding pens for the rest of their lives, often separated from their herd and forced to live in captivity. What’s up with that? According to this story on Forbes.com, the BLM claims that there are an “excessive” number of wild horses, and these gathers are necessary to the health of the land for other uses, like recreation, cattle and sheep grazing, and mining and energy companies seeking grazing, water, and mineral rights on the land the horses and burros have roamed for hundreds of years. However, photos from a 2011 gather show cattle ranchers moving in their cows to graze on the very same land from which wild horses were removed only a day earlier.

How exactly is grazing cattle helping to maintain the health of the land, you ask? Shocker of the century: many of the decisions made by the BLM are recommended by an advisory board “largely composed of livestock permittees.” Oh, and there’s also that tiny business of installing a $3 billion dollar, 675-mile pipeline to carry natural gas from Wyoming to Oregon across the herd’s habitat. Wouldn’t want horses getting in the way of THAT.

Worst of all, these gathers are traumatic and dangerous to the horses. Low-flying helicopters frighten the horses into running into traps. Horses have died as a result of the gathers, despite the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971, which stipulates that “it is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.”

An average of 10,600 animals are removed from the land each year at a cost of between $70 and $90 million. Million, people! That’s a pretty good chunk o’ tax money, much of which is delegated for helicopter operators, private land owners and horse sterilization. And according to the BLM’s own estimates, there will be at least twice as many wild horses (57,000) living in holding pens this year than roaming free.

Want to tell the government where they can shove your tax money that you oppose your tax money being used for the capture of wild horses? Visit the Cloud Foundation to find out great ways to take action! And while you’re there, check out these photos of Cloud, the wild horse who inspired this organization! So majestic and awesome!

Rachel Gary is from Connecticut, where she spends most of her time hiking, reading, tricking her family into eating delicious vegan baked goods, and avoiding doing laundry. As her responsible adult alter ego, she is an editor for an environmental and engineering firm.

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