Salazar wants to rein in wild-horse costs by setting up preserves

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar wants the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to get into the wild-horse preserve business at a cost of nearly $100 million, according to media reports, but, believe it or not, that represents a cost savings to taxpayers … and a stay of execution for thousands of majestic wild horses and burros.

Salazar on a conference call with reporters Wednesday detailed a plan to set up seven wild-horse preserves in the East and Midwest – two of them owned and run by the BLM – that would handle up to 25,000 horses currently running wild from Colorado to California or corralled by the BLM in states like South Dakota, Kansas and Oklahoma.

There are 37,000 horses running free and another 32,000 in captivity, costing the BLM $37 million last year, a projected $50 million this year and $85 million by 2012, according to the Associated Press. The Government Accountability Office last year warned the BLM program was out of control and unsustainable, but the public has balked at slaughtering the proud animals.

According to the BLM, which manages the animals under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, western rangelands are just too arid to viably support the ever-growing herds. Salazar’s plan would avoid euthanizing horses, move them to more lush rangelands, and possibly create eco-tourism opportunities for preserve visitors.

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