BLM: Controversial Memo was Based on Possible Budget Cuts

BLM: Controversial Memo was Based on Possible Budget Cuts

As of February 2014, an estimated 49,246 wild horses and burros are fed and cared for at BLM short- and long-term holding facilities.

Photo: Alexandra Beckstett, The Horse Managing Editor

A controversial memo from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro Division Director Joan Guilfoyle that suggested halting gathers and implementing the euthanasia of sick and aged mustangs in the field is authentic, but was predicated on budget cuts that never happened, a BLM representative says.

The internal memo was made public last week after it was obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, published reports say.

The BLM manages about 33,780 wild horses and 6,825 wild burros on BLM-managed range lands in 12 western states; the organization conducts wild horse gathers to attempt to maintain herds at designated herd management area levels. Gathered animals reside in long- or short- term holding areas, or are adopted by members of the public. As of February 2014, an estimated 49,246 other wild horses and burros are fed and cared for at BLM short- and long-term holding facilities.

In August 2013, Guilfoyle wrote the memo to Greg Shoop, assistant director of the Department of Renewal Resources and Planning, on the state of the wild horse and burro program and its strategic direction in 2014 and beyond. The memo outlined what the BLM might do if some 5% was cut from the agency's budget. Among Guilfoyle's recommendations were to halt to mustang gathers and to implement field euthanasia of wild horses and burros “as a final act of mercy if animals decline to near-death condition as the result of declining water or forage resources.

“Funding and space prohibit the removal of any animals in the near future,” Guilfoyle's memo read. “Euthanasia of near-death animals is the only responsible alternative.”

BLM spokesman Tom Gorey said the recommendations contained in the memo were possible scenarios if the agency's budget was cut in 2014. But, “those budget cuts never happened,” he said.

Gorey said the BLM's budget was $71.8 million in 2013; Guilfoyle's memo suggested anticipated budget cuts could have brought the BLM 's target funding down to $69.6 million. But Gorey said, according to figures received in February, the BLM's 2014 budget totals $77.245 million.

Nevertheless, Guilfoyle's memo remains controversial. Laura Leigh, president and founder of the advocacy group Wild Horse Education, said while the memo garnered plenty of attention, it added nothing new to the mustang management conversation.

“I think the memo got so much attention because it had the word 'kill' in it, but there are no new ideas here,” Leigh said.

Meanwhile, Gorey said the status of wild horse gathers remains pending.

“We still do not have a 2014 gather schedule,” he said.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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