Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board to meet Oct. 9-11

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Wild horses are released after being treated with fertility control vaccine following a 2017 roundup at the Cedar Mountain Herd Management Area in Utah. RTF file photo by Steve Paige.

The National Wild Horse Advisory Board is set to meet Oct. 9-11 in Salt Lake City.

At its last two meetings, the nine-member board voted 8-1 to recommend the Bureau of Land Management “euthanize” — shoot — wild horses and burros. Fortunately, while the advisory board is tasked with providing recommendations on the management of wild horses and burros on federal land, it cannot control policy.

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.

The lone “no” vote on the board’s recommendations came from Ginger Kathrens of The Cloud Foundation. At the 2017 meeting, she did join other members in voting to call for an increase in funding for reversible fertility control.

The advisory board had been set to meet March 27-28. The meeting was postponed after advocates threatened legal action because the BLM provided just 14 days notice of the meeting. 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.”

About the board: Advisory board members serve three-year terms. 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. In announcing the October meeting, BLM  did not reveal who will fill three open seats on the board.

Meeting details: The advisory board will meet at the Courtyard Marriott Salt Lake City Downtown, 345 West 100 South, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mountain time, on Oct. 9 and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 10-11.

Agenda: The BLM says it will post the board’s final agenda 48 hours before the meeting here.

Watch online: The meeting is to be live-streamed here.

Written comments: Participation in the board meeting is not required to submit written comments. Comments must be mailed to the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, National Wild Horse and Burro Program, Attention: Dorothea Boothe WO-260, 20 M Street, SE, Room 2134LM, Washington, D.C., 20003 or emailed to: whbadvisoryboard@blm.gov by October 2, 2018, in order for the Board to consider them at the October meeting. Include “Advisory Board Comment” in the subject line of the email.

Public comment period: A public comment period will be held from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 11. Those who wish to speak should register in person by 2 p.m. at the meeting location. Public comments are typically limited to 2 minutes, but time limits depend on the number of speakers. The BLM requests that speakers submit a written copy of their planned comments to the address above or bring a copy to the meeting.

Field tour: The advisory board will take part in a field tour of the Onaqui Herd Management Area from 7 a.m.-noon on Oct. 9. The field tour is open to “limited public attendance” on a first-come, first-served basis. The tour will leave from the Marriott. To sign up, contact Dorothea Boothe at dboothe@blm.gov by Sept. 28, 2018.