Elderfox's Blog

Thoughts of an elder writer-in-progress

If It’s Not One Thing it’s another…

on July 12, 2010

     The  diminishing  of wildlife, for man’s  $ake, is a steepening slippery slope.  The following article written by legal analyst Andrew Cohen is excerpted and reprinted verbatim from the Politics Daily website.

The fish, fowl and economic kill in the Gulf would be bad enough if Interior’s credibility problems were merely limited to the MMS. But on Friday, far from the ocean, another Interior Department division, the Bureau of Land Management, hastily forced the roundup of 1,200 or so wild horses, including vulnerable newborn foals, in circumstances that cry out for further explanation and review. As reported locally, the BLM says the Nevada roundup was necessary because “the current wild horse population in these [public lands] is more than three times what the range can sustain. We need to gather and remove the excess wild horses to achieve a thriving natural ecological balance on the land and address the horse populations that have moved outside the [public] boundaries.”

Others are not so sure. Horse advocate Laura Leigh notes that there is plenty of room — 480,000 acres, give or take a few — for the horses. She contends that the BLM is forcing the issue now (instead of waiting until the new foals are assured of being strong enough to be herded via helicopter) because two private developments are slated for the area. One is at the Arturo Mine project, where Interior is undertaking an environmental impact study on behalf of Barrick Gold Exploration, a company that wants to expand open-pit mining to thousands of acres of public and private land. The other industry-fueled development that some say prompted the deadly mustang roundup is the Ruby Pipeline project, which for a while became so controversial that the BLM was forced to explain itself to the media.

It may have to explain itself again. An animal rights group has appealed the timing of the BLM’s roundup to the Interior Board of Land Appeals. The grievance in the case, oddly enough, isn’t the sanctity of the animals or the rapacious development of pristine lands for private gain. It’s the far more modest charge that the BLM has violated its own, longstanding and widely accepted rules about “foaling seasons”– no roundups from mid-January to mid-August to save baby horses. Even if the BLM justification for giving the horses the bum’s rush is twice as strong as was the MMS justification for the drilling ban in the Gulf, it still won’t be strong enough to justify the agency’s departure from the rules protecting foals. Should the sins and omissions of the MMS be impugned to the BLM? Why not? They both answer to the beleaguered secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, don’t they?

Nevada is a long way from the sea. But forgive me for worrying that the same guys who promised me safety in the Gulf are now promising me safety for our nation’s wild horses — or that an agency exposed as besotted with industry influence toward Gulf drilling issues is suddenly going to develop a backbone to stand up to corporate interests in the desert. It’s too late for the Gulf. The damage from a lack of regulatory oversight at Interior is all but done there. I just hope it’s not too late for northeastern Nevada, too.  Andrew Cohen 


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