The Bureau of Land Management is clearly having an image problem. As the outrage over its intimidating show of force during last week’s showdown at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada proved, the federal agency is now caught up in a controversy originating in Wyoming.

According to recent reports, agents herded a large group of wild horses in the state before ceding control of the majestic animals to state authorities. At that point, Wyoming officials sold them off to a slaughterhouse in Canada.


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Obviously, this development outraged countless advocates already incensed by accusations that BLM officers gunned down multiple cows at the Bundy Ranch.

Paula Todd King, a wild horse advocate with Colorado’s Cloud Foundation, said it would have taken “very little to do this in a more effective way so that horses are not just sent off to slaughter indiscriminately.”

Though wild horses, which have roamed throughout the American West for hundreds of years, are protected by federal law, the BLM contends these animals do not qualify for such protection. Instead, agency spokesperson Sarah Beckwith contends they are strays descended from rodeo horses from four decades ago.

King, however, wondered how such a distinction is made.


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“How long does a horse have to live wild and free before it’s considered wild?” she asked.

The roundup, which happened about a month ago, concluded with the sale of more than 40 horses to the Alberta-based slaughterhouse, bringing in a grand total of $1,640. Beckwith insisted the entire process was conducted in concert with existing laws, and notice of the sale was posted in local post offices.

BLM Senior Ranchland Management Specialist Robert Bolton, however, acknowledged this haul was much larger than usual.

“That’s a pretty sizable number,” he noted, explaining that “most of our impounds have been in the low numbers.”

While the roundup is not unheard of, and went largely unnoticed by the national press for nearly a month, the perceived overreaction of the agency in responding to the Bundy Ranch in Nevada has understandably increased public scrutiny of the BLM. As most concerned Americans cited overreaches by federal departments such as the IRS and Homeland Security, the BLM generally flew under the radar. That seems to no longer be the case.

Photo Credit: Facebook/Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary


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