Zinke’s Department of the Interior mounting unprecedented attack on wildlife

By on July 24, 2017 with 36 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

The Department of the Interior, under Secretary Ryan Zinke, isn’t mincing words or hedging its political bets. At least not so far. Last week, its leaders signaled that the department may dismantle a rule to restrict ruthless predator killing practices on some 20 million acres of National Park Service lands in Alaska. In his proposed budget for the department, Zinke indicated that he wants all options on the table in terms of wild horse and burro management in the West, including mass slaughter of the animals. And that came just a short time after the agency announced that it would delist grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region, virtually guaranteeing the first trophy hunting season on bears there in 40 years.

Taking aim at wild horses and burros in Bureau of Land Management (BLM) holdings, wolves on national preserves, and grizzly bears around Yellowstone should stir up just about every animal advocate in the nation. Announcing them in a series, with each one representing a turnaround in U.S. policy, is a provocation. It’s something of a declaration of war on wildlife and also on the animal protection movement.

Remember, on his first day in office, Zinke nullified a director’s order from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to stop the use of poisonous lead ammunition on national wildlife refuges. And it was three months ago that President Trump signed Republican-led legislation to reverse a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule that restricted land-and-shoot hunting of grizzly bears and denning of wolves on tens of millions of acres of national wildlife refuges in Alaska. Very few Americans supported that change in policy, but Republican lawmakers charged ahead with it anyway. Now the administration is signaling that it may indeed target a nearly identical rule applying to the same species on an even more special set of lands – 20 million acres managed by the National Park Service.

Grizzly bears may also be under the gun in the lower 48 states as a result of decisions flowing from the new leadership at the Department of the Interior. If the courts don’t reverse the agency’s delisting decision, wildlife management agencies in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming have already declared their intention to open up trophy-hunting seasons on the bears. They took this action despite 650,000 comments opposing delisting, broad condemnation of the idea among wildlife scientists, and the disapproval of 125 Native American tribes.

Secretary Zinke has also said that changing wild horse and burro management is a priority, but he’s gone out of his way to dismiss the value and practicality of fertility control programs pioneered by The HSUS and leading wildlife scientists.

Zinke got an assist last week from the House Appropriations Committee, which adopted an amendment to the Interior appropriations bill offered by Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, to lift the long-term prohibition on the destruction of healthy wild horses and burros. This bill creates a pathway for the killing of animals currently in holding facilities and on the range. The impetus for this amendment came from the Department of the Interior, which issued a request for the authority to slaughter or euthanize thousands of our nation’s iconic wild horses and burros.

Secretary Zinke has gone out of his way to dismiss the value and practicality of fertility control programs for wild horses and burros pioneered by The HSUS and leading wildlife scientists. Photo by Kelly Jay Photography

For the past 20 years, the BLM has relied on rounding up and removing horses and burros from the range as their primary population management strategy, despite pleas from the horse protection community, the National Academy of Sciences, and Congress to shift their management strategy away from removals to something that would actually work to solve rangeland problems. Serious-minded voices called for fertility control, as a way of actively managing populations but keeping horses and burros on the range.

The agency never heeded this advice, except in very limited applications. As a result, rangeland populations have indeed continued to increase, as have captive populations in pens, who got there through government round-ups.

No one wants to hear that the agency and Congress are advocating for the mass killing of animals to save money. Instead, the agency and Congress are trotting out the canard that mass killing is good for the horses and burros – kind of like saving a village by destroying it. They’re regurgitating unsubstantiated allegations that animals on the range are starving en masse. It’s a case of fake news applied to the circumstances of 70,000 wild horses and burros on more than 200 million acres of public land.

We were so concerned about this justification for mass execution that we’ve spent the last few months looking into whether we could find any evidence to support the claim. We’ve been taking a look ourselves, and asked horse advocates who track the horses, wildlife photographers who harmlessly shoot the animals, and other horse lovers who get a look at the animals on the range. Everybody has answered the query the same way: there’s no mass starvation, and no great change in the circumstance of the animals in their habitats.

There’s one common denominator to all of these turnabouts; the agency is favoring special interests over public interest. That’s most evident on the attacks on the two Alaska rulemakings, but that favoritism is also on display when it comes to the management of wild horses and grizzly bears in the lower 48 states. Write to the agency and let officials know you’re on to them. It’s early in the administration, and there’s plenty of time to change course. The American public will laud them if they do, but it won’t forget if they continue to pursue these severe anti-wildlife policies.

Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Lela Pena says:

    I certainly disagree with killing any wild mustangs or burros. Secretary Zinke, Congress, President Trump all need to take a step back and maybe even visit the places where the wild mustangs and burros roam and see that there is no starvation and the wilds are not taking up precious resources from the overly aggressive cattlemen and ranchers. If this Presidency allows the killing of approximately 92,000 wild mustangs and burros, they are going to have a lot, tons and tons, of angry American citizens.

    • Holly Clark says:

      trump is taking health care from people who he knows will die without it, do you think he cares about horses and bears? His Uday and Qusay love of Trophy Hunting is causing unnecessary death of African animals and he is proud of their accomplishments in that effort. Stop dreaming about American people having enough brain and common sense to understand what this serial rapist is doing to people and animals.

      • Melissa Maser says:

        Wyoming wild horse advocate- Leave heath care out of it!
        No the issue here!
        Wild Horses In Wyoming and No Horse Slaughter In Wyoming – Administrator

    • Linda G Miller says:

      Yes mam, and I will be one of them.

    • Rita Nelson says:

      Yes they will feel a backlash. Today we feel different about animals than years ago, we know more about them. They have feelings, pain and suffering, love, sadness, happiness. etc. If this continues as they want I will do all I can to protest. People love their animals and the killing of innocence with no voice will be a bad decision for the Interior and BLM.

    • Lorie Schoen says:

      I agree, right from the horrendous helecoptor roundups and running these horse’s to extreme lengths of exhaustion and even death. Then to be seperated from there families and young foals taken from there mothers and left holding pens without shelter and crowded unsafe conditions. This is a horrible act of cruelty for the horse’s. Why is our Government letting this happen to these amazing horse’s over and over again. This needs to stop and this disturbing and inhumane unethical treatment of these wild horse’s is sickening.

    • Sharon gallagher says:

      Not appropriate…totally disagree

    • River says:

      Lela, I agree completely with you that these wild horses and burrows aren’t taking anything from the greedy, compassion-less cattlemen, Zinke, trump and his cronies. We need to fight for our wildlife being rounded up by helicopters, atvs, held in BLM pens by the hundreds, tattooed, mothers separated from their foals in the harsh frightening roundups. All just because the cattlemen say they are taking away what their animals need.
      Let the horses and burrows run free and wild as they were meant to be.

  2. Beth Berman says:


  3. Mary says:

    I second that. If the news shows the killing of wild mustangs and burros, the involved politicians and officials will not likely recover. Even people who are not animal advocates will be sickened and disgusted by something that clearly will be viewed as inhumane by the masses, and atrocious by many. But the time to save these precious creatures is NOW. Spread the word. It only takes a few minutes.

    • Vera says:

      The involved politicans & officials will make sure that the news DOESN’T show the killing of mustangs & burros. They will cover it up & lie their asses off.

  4. Holly Clark says:

    Shame on anyone who has voted for this murdering administration. I bet if trump was allowed to rape those animals, he would move them to his golf courses.

  5. Patti Winn. says:

    STOP killing our wildlife.

  6. Debra Arrington says:

    Stand up and fight for our animals and earth.

  7. Debra Arrington says:

    Our wild horses and burros are not harming the land .Stop having so many cattle on the land.

  8. Carol Harris says:

    I urge President Trump, Secretary Zinke and Congress to not allow the slaughter of all wild horses, burros and bears or any animal in any State to be slaughtered. Who is in your back pockets? Cattlemen for one. I voted for you, President Trump. I plead with you to stop destroying the American heritage.

  9. Carol Harris says:

    I urge President Trump, Secretary Zinke and Congress to not allow the slaughter of all wild horses, burros and bears or any animal in any State to be slaughtered. Who is in your back pockets? Cattlemen for one. I voted for you, President Trump. I plead with you to stop destroying the American heritage.

  10. JAMIE says:

    What can we do? This is so very upsetting to me ! Wild horses and burros belong to us Americans and this land . This attack on them can’t happen . These all have to be signed in to budget bill still right? I believe if Trump was educated more on Wild Horses , and Americans view point . I think he would try something else ? I pray! What should we do to help these animals ?

  11. Sue thompson says:

    Bureaucrates cant think of humane solutiions, only KILLINGS……disgraceful. If that is all they can do, then they should not be in a position to make that decision. Monsters…

  12. valerie winters says:

    If there was a no hunting ban in Alaska in the National Parks, etc., then trumps’ son and son-in-law would have to go kill the last remaining lions in Africa. they have to show that they are so-called men.

  13. Melissa Wessels says:

    This has nothing to do with health care. Getting your your own agenda and using our wildlife to do it.
    Not apolicable!

  14. lisa Brabson says:

    DO NOT KILL THESE WONDERFUL ANIMALS! THEY HAVE THE RIGHT TO LIVE,YOU ARE NOT GOD! Stop this insanity and act like human beings! We are suppose to protect and save,NOT MURDER!

  15. Kathryn Rutz says:

    I’ve been fortunate to be a long-time horse “owner.” It seems to me that there are so many comprehensive solutions that don’t involve slaughter–vaccines and even surgical sterilization would be far better than the mustangs having to spend the rest of their lives in holding facilities. I’ve seen some real changes for the better in BLM awareness and policy in the last eight years; so heartbreaking to see it getting undone in one fell swoop. Any recommendations (I’ve already sent a letter) for how I can get involved in the policy-making side of things?

  16. Mr Greer Hart, senior says:

    I am from Scotland, UK, and have been an animal welfare campaigner for the past 55 years. The USA, at present, appears to be under a regime that is dismantling all the laws, hard fought for, that give humane protection to many species of animals. There is also the move to allow the industrialisation of the National Parks, Native American Reservations and sacred areas, and other protection territories. The marine environment is also under threat. A whole bunch of scoundrels have been empowered, and trot out daft and mis-informative reasons for all this disregard of what has made the USA a world leader in animal and environmental protection. Every country has its gun geeks who have to kill something regularly, and they now have a President and his team, who are trying hard to let them loose on Bears, Cougars, Wolves and anything they see as a threat to their narrow vested interest. The planned wall between Mexico and the USA has no consideration for the migratory animals, such as the Ocelot and Jaguar, which show signs of making a come back. Trophy shooting will increase, both in the USA and abroad, where American slayers of wildlife will bid to shoot endangered Lions, Elephants, Rhino etc., with compliant countries such as Namibia, South Africa, Kenya etc., vying for their inflated bids. Thank God there are Americans who are sane and compassionate, and who are resisting this juggernaut of doom for animals, forests and terrestrial and marine environments. The liquidation of mustangs and burros to please marginal ranchers and others, who want to maintain their anachronistic and cruel grip on the landscape, has appalled the rational part of the population. The Trump Presidency appears to be an anomaly, which should not be allowed to progress any further in its policy for the “management” of the natural environment. We are, at present, going through a man-made extinction, with every possible habitat and their associated animal and plant life, under severe threat. Many life forms are now at the margin of their genetic existence. The sane politicians of the USA have to waken up and prevent any further harm taking place.

  17. Tricia Hamilton says:

    This whole republican attack on people, air, water, animals. They should be ashamed of what they are doing to this world.

  18. Lisa Petardi says:

    Zinke,Trump and many Rebublicans are ruthless..They are so disconnected from the earth, animals and people..Their greed is sickening..God help the environment the innocent animals ,and the descent people who care

  19. BJ says:

    Between this, the trophy hunters, the horse sorers, the owners of dog tracks, the fur trade, the dog meat trade and on and on…it just seems like people are doing their best to wipe as many animals as they can off of the face of the earth…what would this world be like without animals? How can they look at an animal in the face and cause such pain and suffering? Why do they even think they have a right?

  20. G Susan Hadley says:

    Money talks and it always will…..BLM is bedfellows with cattlemen, grazing rights, and such. They don’t practice what they preach. I agree with those who say the politicians who go along with this, it will be political suicide for them. VOTE THEM OUT!!! Sorry to say but it is a lot of republicans, money hunger, dollar signs is all they see. When they lose their cushy jobs, then we will see. VOTE THEM OUT!!! God has a special place for them, the ones who are send these horses to their death. Jesus is coming back on a horse, his whole army will be riding horses. You cannot tell me these are not special animals.

  21. Phyllis burt says:

    Stop the killing no one has the right to kill our wildlife
    Dear God please protect your beautiful creatures I pray.

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