RENO, Nev. — The federal Bureau of Land Management’s largest wild-horse adoption facility in the country is getting nicked by the budget ax.
The Palomino Valley National Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Center, 20 miles north of Reno, is scaling back its weekend operations in a move criticized by horse advocates. The facility, which will remain open on weekdays, will limit its Saturday hours to just mornings on the first Saturday of each month beginning in April.
The center is closed Sundays.
Anne Novak of California-based Protect Mustangs said most people work during the week and the move shows the BLM doesn’t care about a successful horse adoption program.
The facility serves as the primary preparation center for wild horses and burros removed from public lands in Nevada and surrounding states. Horses that aren’t adopted are shipped to government-funded pastures in the Midwest, where they spend the rest of their lives under protections afforded them by federal law. Nevada is home to over half of the roughly 37,000 wild horses that freely roam the West.
“Shutting down Saturdays for viewing and adopting will reduce adoptions and increase the costs to care for the unadopted,” Novak said. “It appears the BLM wants their adoption program to fail. They sure aren’t making it user-friendly by closing on Saturday.”
BLM spokeswoman Heather Emmons Jasinski said Saturdays have seen few adoptions and visitors. Only 10 horses have been adopted at the Palomino Valley site since Oct. 1, she said, and very few of those occurred on Saturdays. The BLM also offers adoptions through the internet and special events across the country.
“At this time, (the center) is not fully staffed and is not able to complete the necessary paperwork to adopt horses on every weekend,” Jasinski said. “Additional hours worked during the weekend significantly increase the cost to operate the facility.”
Annual horse adoptions were down nationwide from 7,700 in 2003 to about 3,000 for various reasons, including the economy, the country’s growing urbanization and a saturated domestic horse market, Jasinski said.
“The BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program places a high priority on increasing adoptions,” she said. “In fact, it is part of our proposed strategy to increase adoptions from about 3,000 per year to at least 4,000 per year.”
Novak maintained the agency is using the economy as an excuse, saying, “There are still plenty of people buying horses these days.”
The BLM said the change was prompted by across-the-board spending cuts, which took effect March 1.