Advisory Board meeting postponed after public notification dispute

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A Bureau of Land Management contractor’s helicopter pursues wild horses during the a 2017 roundup southwest Wyoming. RTF file photo by Steve Paige.

 

The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting planned for March 27-28 has been postponed because advocates threatened legal action, the Bureau of Land Management announced on Friday.

“The meeting was delayed when one of its members threatened to sue the BLM because it did not provide 30 days’ notice of the meeting,” according to a press release.

The Cloud Foundation and the American Wild Horse Campaign sent a joint letter on Wednesday warning that they would take legal action because the BLM failed to provide adequate notice. Ginger Kathrens, president of the Cloud Foundation, is an advisory board member.

Under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, meeting notices must be published in the Federal Register 30 days in advance of a meeting or 15 days in advance “if urgent matters arise.”

The most recent advisory board meeting announcement appeared in the Federal Register on March 13, or 14 days before the planned meeting was to be held in Salt Lake City.

Yet BLM’s press release insists that it did provide 15 days’ notice. It says that the “urgent matter” is the expiration of the terms of three of the board’s members expiring at the end of March. Those members were needed to have the quorum needed to conduct board business.

Advisory board members serve three-year terms.

The board’s next meeting will be held after new members are seated, according to the press release.

The nine-member advisory board is tasked with providing recommendations on the management of wild horses and burros on federal land. The advisory board cannot control policy, only make recommendations.

The secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture, which oversee the Bureau of Land Management of U.S. Forest Service, respectively, appoint advisory board members to represent different interest group areas, including veterinary medicine, livestock management and wildlife management. Kathrens serves in the seat allocated for humane advocacy, for example.

The advisory board’s charter expires in July.

At its past two meetings, the advisory board has recommended that the Bureau of Land Management “euthanize” – shoot – wild horses.

In September 2016, the board voted to recommend that the BLM euthanize “unadoptable” wild horses and burros – a recommendation that resulted in an immediate public backlash. Within five days, the BLM distanced itself from the recommendations by posting a statement on its website emphasizing that the board was an independent body and that the agency “would continue to care for and seek good homes for animals that have been removed from the range.”

In October 2017, the board’s current members, minus one, went further still. They voted to recommend that: BLM kill tens of thousands of wild horses and burros to reach BLM’s much-disputed Appropriate Management Level and phase out long-term holding facilities within three years. It also called for allowing international adoptions, with some members going so far as to praise a plan to have taxpayers foot the bill to have American wild horses flown abroad to serve as prey animals for tigers.

Only Kathrens voted against those recommendations. At the 2017 meeting, she did join other members in voting to call for an increase in funding for reversible fertility control.

For more information about the advisory board, see the BLM’s website.

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