Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

"Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready." - Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

Friday, October 3, 2014

BLM must remove 1,126 Wild Horses from Utah Prison by Oct 6th


Well folks, the clock is ticking for the BLM!

With only a few days left before over 1,100 BLM horses have to be removed from the state of Utah by order of the State of Utah Department of Corrections, I can't help but wonder what's going to happen to those horses?

It was reported on Sep 11th, that a funding dispute has lead to the loss of a program that gave Utah inmates the ability to work with the BLM's Wild Horses which would be put out for adoption to the public.

Consequently, the State of Utah gave the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) 30 days to move more than 1,100 wild horses out of the state.

Imagine that!  Nice folks! 30 days to move exactly 1,126 horses!

Not 90 days or 6 months, but only 30 days. That's a heck of a deadline! Like I said, real nice folks out there.

This has all taken place after the Utah Department of Corrections terminated its Wild Horse & Burro Program, ending a seven-year partnership with the Federal agency.

Corrections officials said the program was burning a hole in their budget, that what was meant to be self-sustaining had become a financially unfeasible enterprise.

The BLM insists that not only had it done its part to support the program at the Gunnison Prison in central Utah.

While the BLM has gotten a bad rap for other things these days, an audit last year revealed the Federal government in fact had overpaid Utah by about $2 Million since the program’s introduction in April 2007.

So will Utah now pay the American taxpayer back the $2 Million it owes us? Probably not.

Of course this does affect the 17 or so inmates who care for the wild mustangs kept on a 40-acre parcel of prison land. They were the heart and soul of the training program that trained and prepared the horses for adoption.

The inmates who are involved in this program are not the violent offenders, but the ones who are serving their time and will return to society one day.

The Horse and Burro Training Program is a cooperative partnership between the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Corrections of a multiple Western states.

The program gentles and trains Wild Horses for adoption.

Each horse or burro receives 120 days of training, but they are still “green-broke”. They will need daily training and handling by an experienced rider when they arrive at their new home.

Before buying a horse, there is usually plenty of time to preview the horses and even talk to their trainers before each adoption starts.

All horses are adopted through a competitive oral bid and each horse is only offered for adoption once during each event.

For those unfamiliar with the program, this is an adoption and not a sale. The adopter must take proper care of the Wild Horse for one year -- and only then, after the one year, can the adopter apply for title to that horse.

Once the title is issued, the horse or burro will then belong to the adopter.

So yes, hanging in the balance of this disagreement are 1,126 horses gathered by the BLM for training for adoption.

The clock is ticking and the BLM has only until October 6th to remove the horses from the state of Utah.

What happens then is anybody's guess!

While Arizona, California and Nevada are being considered to house a majority of the mustangs, there has not been a decision made as to where they will go.

About 50 will stay behind in Axtell, Utah, though the state has nearly 4,000 wild horses — more than double the number the BLM has designated as Utah’s upper limit.

Many ranchers who I've known personally who feed their cattle on government land would love to see the Wild Horses go away all together. Especially during a drought as we've seen lately, competition over feed sources can be tough.

And yes, ranchers cut down on their cost -- which of course means lower prices at the grocery store -- by using range lands.

Iron and Beaver county commissioners and ranchers in the Blawn Wash area whose livestock compete for forage have been pushing BLM to bring wild horse numbers down.

The BLM was reluctant to do roundups of wild horses in the West this year due to a low demand for horse adoptions. Nearly 50,000 horses are already being kept in holding pastures in the West.

Those horses are a direct result of a bad economy. It is just another sign of hard times.

When the economy picks up, American horse owners are more apt to adopt simply because the price of feed goes down and it becomes feasible to do so. It is the same reason that horse rescues are being flooded with horses that people can no longer afford.

With the increase in feed and care, BLM adoptions, like horse sales in general, are down.

In late July, BLM removed 143 horses from Beaver County’s Wah Wah Mountains, and during the roundup, a yearling filly and 7-year-old mare died.

Tom Gorey, public information officer for the BLM, declined to get into specifics about where the more than 1,100 horses currently corralled at Gunnison would be going or how they would be moved.

Although ballooning numbers of wild horses are stretching BLM resources to their limits, the sites the agency is considering are all "near capacity" but not full.

According to an audit conducted by U.S. Office of Inspector General, $2,004,553 in funding from the BLM to the state’s Department of Corrections were found to be either questionable or unsupported — meaning Utah failed to adequately document or justify how such monies were used.

Auditors, who completed their investigation a year ago, noted that the financing structure of the Wild Horse & Burro program had changed over time:

Initially, BLM reimbursed Utah for each horse held at the Gunnison facility at a rate of $2.75 per head per day. That amount rose over time, with the most recent rate being $3.55 -- that comes out to $106.50 a month to feed and board each horse.

Friends, $106.50 multiplied by 1,126 horses is $119,919.00 a month.

After the government learned of the $2 million that is allegedly unaccounted for -- in contractual services, equipment rental costs, building and ground fees and depreciation -- the agency restructured its financial agreement with Utah into a reimbursement-based system.

That means that for every dollar Utah spent on the program, the state was tasked with documenting its purchases and the BLM would reimburse them accordingly.

It appears the state of Utah didn't like that and still wanted more money above the overpayment it already received from the federal government.

Mike Haddon, the deputy director of administrative services for the Utah Department of Corrections, said the bureau refused to reimburse them for certain purchases and declined requests necessary to the program’s survival.

"As a state agency that depends on tax dollars, we cannot operate programs at a loss," Corrections Director Rollin Cook said in a statement.

"We are disappointed that the challenges could not be overcome. We plan to invest our efforts in expanding other existing evidence-based programs and setting up new programs that prepare an even greater number of inmates to re-enter society with relevant, more employable skills."

But how can the State of Utah say it is a loss when they actually made over $2 Million above what they should have gotten from the BLM?

This is the sort of logic that people in government -- at all levels of government, no matter if it is city, county, state, or the federal government -- seem to have in common.

They were over paid, but once the over payment was found out -- the people who were overpaid become indignant and can't see why the overpayment can't continue1

That style of doing business is why we are in a hole in this nation. It is called corruption and waste.

And by the way, since the State of Utah has stated that they have been "working at a loss" even with the overpayment of $2 Million -- why hasn't anyone asked where that $2 Million went?

Who profited if the State of Utah was working at a loss with more money than it was supposed to get?

Where is the criminal investigation on where the money went?

The BLM and the State of Utah Corrections will supposed continue to work together to settle any outstanding debts or monies owed between them, officials said.

"This program was never intended to be a money-maker for any party," Gorey said. "The benefit to Utah is they get a rehab and job-training program in place for their inmates. ... It’s a shame the program is being shut down over a disagreement over the expenses covered and billed."

Again, here's the double speak out of Utah!

If it wasn't supposed to be a "money maker" for any party, than where did the extra $2 Million go?

Folks, a $2 Million overpayment is nothing to sneeze at. That is a lot of money, especially since the State of Utah is saying that it was used but somehow unaccounted for.

Since the $2 Million were used somewhere, who used it? And yes, someone should be asking how was it used if it wasn't used for the intended BLM adoption program?

Who is responsible for using those funds improperly? And yes, like many taxpayers, I'd like to know why there is no one being held accountable for squandering almost $2 Million meant for the BLM adoption program?

Maybe some of the folks who run the Utah prison system there should be residents of the prison system there?

It is not known what new programs might replace the Wild Horse & Burro Program or how the Gunnison prison would repurpose its 40-acre horse facilities built by U.S. taxpayers.

The Wild Horse & Burro Program has been operational at the Gunnison prison since April 2007. Three supervising officers and a rotating crew of about 17 inmates cared for the wild mustangs kept there. The BLM also had one person assigned to the program there.

Through that program, as well as an Internet-based adoption program, approximately 34 horses were adopted each year on average from the Gunnison facility.

Gorey said the BLM works with several states to run similar programs at correctional facilities around the country.

"I think anyone who has observed this up close and personal sees the benefit," Gorey said. "You have inmates learn a lot of patience — training horse is not easy — and really seem to bond with the horse, they learn how to take care of something outside of themselves."

While the inmate interaction part of the program was good, research indicates that the Gunnison facility put out 34 horses a year.

Did that overpayment of $2 Million only cover a program that puts out 34 horses a year? If so, we the American people have been getting screwed!

Seven years of putting out 34 horses a year ain't much when you consider that it costs the taxpayers over $100,000 a month to feed and board the over 1,100 horses there.

Then we take those horses and put them out for adoption for $125 each. Yup, something is wrong here!

Of course even if the program remained in place, at a rate of 34 horses a year it will take a very very long time to put out all the remaining 1,126 mustangs there.

So yes, it seems to me that someone may want to rethink how this all works and if there is another way to do this to put out more than just 34 horses a year out of one facility.

If by now you're getting the feeling that the BLM is taking in more horses than it is putting out for adoption, you are right.

And if you're thinking that the BLM is just getting these animals off the range and housing them as fast as they can for no other the reason than to just get them off public lands, you're right again!

Just looking at the figures and the cost involved with boarding them at just this one facility, it is not hard to see that the number of wild horses BLM is removing from the wild exceeds its adoption program's abilities and capacity.

Utah is no different than what's taking place at other facilities in other Western states in that many horses remain at prison facilities much longer than the 30 to 60 days needed to halter train them.

This is resulting in increased program costs and huge number of horses interned at these facilities.

So why would the BLM take more horses off the range if they know full well that they aren't able to get those horses adopted? Why house them with the increased costs when they can be in the wild?

Part of the problem is that Environmentalist Groups don't want the horses on the lands that they see as their to preserve for other wild animals. With their political clout they can force a policy to remove them.

Another part of the problem is that ranchers and farmers also see American Wild Horses as competition for feed on public lands, and subsequently just like the Environmentalist Groups, they don't want the horses on the land that they see as theirs for agriculture needs.

Because of these and other factors, such as the BLM belief that America's wild horses cannot adapt to different grazing conditions as they have over hundreds of years, the BLM houses Wild Horses in facilities that are overcrowded and extremely costly -- all to just get them off public land.

I find it ironic that while Environmentalist and the Ranchers and Farmers see the removal of American Wild Horses as a good thing, that they don't care about the spending involved with their removal and internment. 

BLM officials said they will hire a non-governmental agency to conduct another audit of their finances and arrangement with Utah’s corrections system.

One can only hope that this audit takes into consideration the costs at all of the facilities involved in this costly program --which is nothing less than a Wild Horse removal program.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign called for an "across-the-board hold" on BLM’s horse program after news of its financial disagreement with Utah broke.

In a news release, the group alleges widespread "corruption, mismanagement and incompetence."

While there is a part of me that feels sorry for the BLM because of it horrible management, the Bureau of Land Management is clearly having its problems.

As the outrage over its intimidating show of force during the showdown at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada proved -- the BLM, as a federal agency, seems to be caught up in one controversy after another these days.

As as for the question, what will the BLM do with the over 1,100 Wild Horses that it has to removed from a Utah Prison by Monday? Some speculate another slaughterhouse deal like what they pulled earlier this year in Wyoming where they herded them up and handed them over to the state for shipment to slaughterhouses in Canada.

And frankly, with things like this going on, it's not wonder that American taxpayers are tired of Federal government waste and irresponsibility. This is the sort of poor management that's spurring discontent.

And yes, that's just how I see it.

Tom Correa




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