I-Team: BLM and Wild Horse Advocates Working Together for Adoption Day - 8 News NOW

Chief Investigative Reporter George Knapp and Photojournalist Matt Adams

I-Team: BLM and Wild Horse Advocates Working Together for Adoption Day

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In general, wild horse advocates don't get along too well with the Bureau of Land Management. There's a lot of bad blood, but differences have been set aside for a mutually beneficial cause -- National Adopt a Wild Horse Day -- with events at more than 60 locations around the country including one this weekend out in Pahrump.

Finding adoptive homes for horses and burros is a much better option than sending them to slaughter or leaving them in BLM corrals. BLM is hoping this adoption event will be the start of something big.

"They are gathering these horses to make room for cattle and to take care of a problem they would rather not have," said wild horse advocate Jerry Reynoldson.

Reynoldson has never been shy about criticizing the BLM and its management of the wild horse program. He has been among that agency's most outspoken critics for years. Now, though, Reynoldson and other defenders of the mustang herds find themselves working hand in hand with BLM on a nationwide series of events, designed to jump start the horse and burro adoption program.

It was Reynoldson's idea for a national event -- a national wild horse adoption day.

There's little doubt something is needed. There are now more wild horses in government-funded facilities than there are mustangs on the public range. Although BLM has complained it has no budget to keep feeding so many horses, it continues to round them up at an astonishing clip.

While spending has increased on roundups and warehousing of the horses, BLM's spending on adoptions has dwindled. The expense and crowding at government corrals is a primary reason BLM spoke openly last year of euthanizing the 30,000 or so horses it has already captured.

"When we look at the issue of euthanasia, every year it's a cyclical thing. It comes back around no matter what we do to put it in the box. It comes back and for one good reason: we have too many horses standing around. Until we find a way to effectively place horses in good homes on a consistent basis, we will always see the threat of euthanasia raise its head again and again," said Reynoldson.

BLM knows its adoption program has failed to keep pace. It has studied the idea of privatizing the adoption program but can't seem to pull the trigger.

Reynoldson and his partners managed to secure BLM's blessing and federal funding. They spent half of what was budgeted, which means there is already money for a follow-up next year. The hope is to find homes for 1,000 horses and burros in one swoop, including 10 animals available at the local event, which is being held at the Saddle West Casino in Pahrump on both Saturday and Sunday.

"The number is insignificant when you think about what we are trying to accomplish. We're trying to assist the BLM in establishing a new model for adoptions that will help year in and year out with the horses," said Reynoldson.

It might be a tough sell in such a tough economy to get people to take a horse or burro, but the animals often sell themselves, assuming organizers can draw a crowd to the events.

Adoption costs are minimal, but taking 1,000 horses off the government dole would save taxpayers more than $1.5 million. Whether this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship between horse advocates and BLM remains up for debate.

The adoption event in Pahrump starts at 9 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday and you can bring home your own piece of American history.

Reynoldson says National Adoption Day would never have happened without the help of the Humane Society, National Wild Horse Association, the Mustang Heritage Foundation, and his pals at the BLM.

Nevada members of Congress Harry Reid and Dina Titus have put their political muscle behind it as well.

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