Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Why so Quiet?

I am sure some have noticed, or at least I hope they have, that I have been uncharacteristically quiet lately. It isn't that I have quit or took some much needed time off, but just a bout of depression brought on by the treatment of horses. I swear that every day I hear of some new atrocities and at some point it was bound to get to me and it finally did. I have NEVER been depressed like this before and I now have a new empathy and sympathy for those who battle it daily. It really made me question if I was crazy to ever think I could make a difference. It isn't that the depression has lifted, it is there as much today as yesterday, but I have decided I have whined about it enough and it is time to DO something. I got a phone call about an issue that was right up my alley, so I am back in the saddle again (so to speak).

I can say though, that I have noticed a decided lack of activity during my self enforced solitude. Which makes me wonder if I am truly crazy to try and tackle all these issues on my own. I know that we all have our own personal issues that we have to deal with and at any given time any one of us could be preoccupied with those issues. However, it is as though pretty much everyone has given up. I do know that in response to the posts I made before I hit rock bottom was greatly lacking in enthusiasm. It is as if everyone gave up and went home and fogot to tell the rest of us who have been working so hard for so long.

I know we have had some set backs, but we only lose if we quit. It is time to gather our strength and push past our disappointments and regain the momentum we had. It is time for the horses to finally have a victory. Trust me I know how difficult it can be to get there, but if we don't at least try we will never succeed.

I know that my post about a lack of funding I got exactly 1 response. One person who paid her membership dues. While I greatly appreciate that person, she can no more afford to keep AHDF afloat than I can. If we don't get more funding in we will lose our mailbox, our phone, our websites and we will cease to exist. Perhaps the handwriting is on the wall and I should just give up too. Forget about banning slaughter, forget about stopping soring, forget about working to end abuse and neglect, forget about our vanishing wild horses and burros, forget about all the good we have done. Just forget it all and stick my head in the sand and ignore what is going on around me. I certainly cannot do it alone and if people are counting on other organizations, many of whom have already quit in everything but name and fundraising only, they are going to be sadly mistaken. If AHDF goes under we will lose the most active organization in equine welfare, but perhaps nobody cares?


The blog American Herds, written by one of the smartest women I know and am lucky to call a friend, recently posted an article that asks "Where is the Money?". In her blog she writes about the BLM writing the Policy Handbook which will guide the BLM in their duties and the fact that it won't be open for public comment. There are reasons for this in government, but in this particular case I feel they should allow for comments and I am asking for your help in seeing that we ARE allowed to comment.

First, let's look at why normally these things are not open for public comment. The government could be hampered in its operation by comments and frivolous law suits if they allow public comments on all policies set by various agencies that impact a certain segment of the population (for example the Army only sets policies that impact their service members and possibly their families). Usually policy is determined by the law and it is an internal document to clarify the law for employees or to address specific issues within an agency. An example is that Congress determines that a certain activity shouldn't be paid for with tax payer dollars, such as to pay for inspectors at a horse slaughter plant. The USDA has policy analysts that read the law and determine what exactly that means. As we know, they felt it meant that the plants could pay for their own inspectors. Why they made that determination, I don't know. The intent of Congress was clear during the debate, it was to shutter the nation's horse slaughter plants. However, they argued that other laws conflicted, they REQUIRED an inspector at plants slaughtering for meat that would be exported. I think that was a stretch and that the argument was thin, but if the public had been allowed to comment and our comments had been ignored it would have opened the door to law suits. Unfortunately it was a single policy that impacted a small percentage of the population, so we couldn't ask for them to allow comments at that time.

However, the BLM policy book impacts a number of environmental issues and impacts anyone interested in public lands, including ranchers. So, it should be open to the public. They have acknowledged that by allowing the various Advisory Boards to provide comment. However, this isn't broad enough. That policy handbook should be open to public comments as there are pending changes to a variety of programs (wild horse and burro program, sage grouse, big horn sheep, hunting, grazing...) that impact billions of people. Since the BLM is the most litigated government agency, allowing public comments could even actually lessen the number of law suits. Since it impacts so many they should be allowed to comment if it directly impacts their lives and livelihoods and directly impact the quality of lives of those of us who visit, care about or wish to preserve our national lands and we should be allowed to at least comment on those policies.

Everyone should contact the BLM and the Department of Interior (see below for contact info) and ask that an exemption be made for public comment on the Policy Handbook. Since it is doubtful that they will do the right thing despite public outcry you should also contact your Representative and Senators and ask that they move to allow the public to comment. For this to be effective we are going to need more than a few comments, we are going to need to literally FLOOD them with comments. So, please forward this information to everyone you know and every horse group out there.


Director: Mike Pool (Acting)
Deputy Director (Operations): Mike Nedd (Acting)
Chief of Staff: Janet Lin

BLM Washington Office
1849 C Street NW, Rm. 5665
Washington DC 20240
Phone: 202-208-3801
Fax: 202-208-5242


Mailing Address:
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240

Phone: 202-208-3100
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