Horse groups wary of new Interior pick

RENO — Wild horse advocates may be unified in their sharp criticism of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, but they’re split over President Barack Obama’s choice to replace him.

Horse groups are hoping Recreational Equipment Inc. chief Sally Jewell will represent a shift in direction for the government’s management of wild horses. They note nearly 40,000 horses have been removed from the range across the West during Salazar’s four-year tenure, which ends in March.

Suzanne Roy, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, said her group “responded optimistically” to Jewell’s nomination and looks forward to opening a dialogue with her about reforming the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s wild horse program.

“Sally Jewell is a surprising choice, but we’re hopeful that as a conservationist and outdoor enthusiast, she’ll appreciate the important role wild horses play in our national heritage and work with us to find ways to preserve them for future generations,” Roy said. “Jewell will face many challenges as interior secretary, but time is running out for America’s wild horses and burros, so she’ll have to act quickly.”

In announcing the nomination Wednesday, Obama said Jewell has earned national recognition for her environmental stewardship at REI, which sells clothing and gear for outdoor enthusiasts.

But Anne Novak, executive director of California-based Protect Mustangs, said she has doubts about Jewell because of her earlier background as a commercial banker and Mobil Oil engineer.

Horse defenders strongly oppose the BLM’s ongoing program to remove wild horses from public lands, saying there are now more of the animals “stockpiled” in government holding facilities than remain free on the range.

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