BLM chief’s wild horse fixation distracts from the real threats to public land

Two wild horses stand near a pump jack in the Greater Chaco Region in northwestern New Mexico. Oil continues to bolster the state’s budget.

In mid-October, William Perry Pendley, the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management, warned environmental journalists at a conference in Fort Collins, Colorado, about the greatest problem facing the 244 million acres of public land that he is charged with overseeing. This scourge “wreaks havoc” everywhere it goes, and — far more than being a mere headache for land managers — it is an “existential threat” to the lands that Americans hold dear. And that threat is? Wait for it … wild horses.

The statement was so over the top, so ignorant of the actual threats to the planet, that one almost expected Pendley to pull out a Sharpie, a la President Trump, and scribble on a map showing the projected storm path of a vast herd of feral equines, before revealing that the whole scene was the opening skit for “Saturday Night Live.” But Pendley wasn’t joking. Whether he believed what he said, or was just throwing it out there to distract folks from the real threats — namely, his and his bosses’ environmental agenda — remains unknown.

Jonathan Thompson is a contributing editor at High Country News. He is the author of "River of Lost Souls: The Science, Politics and Greed Behind the Gold King Mine Disaster." The views expressed here are solely his own. This article was originally published by High Country News (hcn.org) on Oct. 25.

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