The citizen board for the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program will not meet this month as planned. The board gives advice to the BLM about how to manage the species on federal lands. The cancellation is frustrating for members who said the agency has given no response to its recommendations for two years.
Board Chairman Fred Woehl said the past year has been full of delays for federal advisory groups like his and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke suspended these groups over the summer. Woehl didn’t find out he’d be serving another term until a day before the group was supposed to meet this past fall.
The meeting was in Colorado, and Woehl lives in Arkansas, so he couldn’t make it. He said a big part of the problem is that many officials in the BLM, including the Wild Horse and Burro program director, are serving in an “acting capacity.”
“As an acting employee, basically all you’re doing is holding things together,” Woehl said. “So when you have a layer of organizations like they do, it takes a while for that to get worked down to the bottom layer.”
The board’s March 27-28 meeting was postponed after member Ginger Kathrens contacted the BLM through a lawyer. She said the meeting notice was published too late according to federal law. Kathrens is Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation, and she is the only board member representing a wild horse advocacy group. She said her organization was willing to sue.
“I do really believe that the public needs to be able to have an opportunity, as well as the media, to attend these meetings, and see what’s going on, and hear it first hand, and be able to comment if they want to,” Kathrens said.
Kathrens agrees with the concept of the board, but she said it is stacked against people like her, who don’t want the agency to kill any horses. At its two most recent meetings, the board voted in favor of killing some horses, but the federal government has yet to implement those recommendations.
It will likely be months before the group meets again, since a third of the board members finish their terms at the end of March.