Fire the Cops! Fire the Teachers! We’ve Got Horses to Move

UPDATED POST:  I spoke with the attorney for the CEO of NBC-Universal’s ranch in Montana.  Jim Goetz says his client is “protecting the very traditional ranching qualities of the Madison Valley” while “their neighbor is now sucking at the federal nipple.”  He also called the BLM’s wild horse transfer a “reckless use of federal tax dollars” and says we can expect to see this issue in federal court sometime soon.  See the update below the initial post.    


Fire the cops! Fire the teachers!  Free the illegal immigrants!  Come on people- we’ve got horses to move. 

I hope you will understand the opening sentence as sarcasm, but seriously- we had a caller to our statewide radio show Wednesday morning raise concerns over the recently reported transfer of 700 wild horses from Nevada to Montana. 

Of course news like this in the middle of the sequestration debate only raises the question- if we have to fire teachers, cops, and block kids from getting vaccines, how can we afford to move 700 horses from Nevada to Montana?  I mean, heck, before you know it- zombies might soon takeover Montana TV stations.  (Oh wait- that already happened)

From the AP on Tuesday, February 26th:

The Bureau of Land Management is proceeding with a plan to move 700 wild horses to a ranch in southwestern Montana, despite the fact that the owners of neighboring ranches are concerned about whether the land can sustain — and the fences contain — the animals.

The first truckloads of horses are due to arrive at the Spanish Q Ranch northwest of Ennis as early as Wednesday, The Montana Standard reported.

Now, before you get out there on your high horse and speak out completely against the move, I did have the opportunity to speak with Karen Rice of the Spanish Q Ranch.  The Rice family is part of a 5th generation ranch family in Southwest Montana.  In fact, when I spoke with her just after noon on Wednesday, she said 3 semi-loads of the horses had already arrived outside.  Rice described the view outside her window as “just beautiful.”   

In fact, get a look at the view out her window for yourself.  Picture courtesy of Karen Rice:

As of noon Wednesday, Rice said 117 of the some 700 horses have already made their way to the ranch.  The shipments are the first results she has seen in a complicated process stretching back almost three years.  “We’ve always looked at it, it’s a family ranch and it’s (supporting the wild horses) a way to keep our ranch in the family.” 

Click below to listen to additional audio interview with Karen Rice as she describes the view outside her window, offers additional thoughts on the wild horse debate, and more: 

Click to Listen

Rice added that it is over $4.14 a day cheaper per horse to put them in a long term facility like her Spanish Q Ranch, and she adds that it’s better for the horses.  To the charge, covered by the AP, that their ranch will not be able to adequately feed or fence the horses- “overblown” says Rice.  In fact, she says that the greatest concern of inadequate fencing for the wild horses is coming from none other than a top executive with NBC-Universal. 

While you might imagine an east coast media executive (especially one responsible for MSNBC) taking more of a romanticized view when it comes to wild horses, Rice says the biggest objector is an out-of-stater named Steven Burke, the CEO of NBC-Universal who owns the Valley Garden Ranch.  I did place a call with Burke’s Executive Assistant for confirmation that he owns the ranch, and am hoping to get a follow up interview with his reaction to the charge that he is opposing the shipment of wild horses.  (Only online document I could find potentially linking the two is here.)   

According to the NBC-Universal website, Steve Burke is Chief Executive Officer of NBCUniversal. He oversees the company’s valuable portfolio of news, sports, and entertainment networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, and world-renowned theme parks. Prior to Comcast, Burke served with The Walt Disney Company as President of ABC Broadcasting

Now, back to the sequester.  Will the federal Bureau of Land Management be forced to put the horse back in the barn, shall we say, if shipment plans are impacted by the sequester?  The call has been placed.  I’ll let you know what I find out from BLM.   


I spoke with the attorney for NBC-Universal CEO Steve Burke who owns the Valley Garden Ranch outside of Ennis, Montana.  Well known Bozeman, Montana attorney Jim Goetz is representing Burke in the dispute over transferring 700 wild horses from Nevada to a neighboring ranch outside of Ennis. 

Goetz says ranches on all four sides of the Spanish Q ranch are concerned about potenial starvation and poor fencing when it comes to the future handling of the wild horses.  He calls it a waste of taxpayer dollars.

“This is a pretty wreckless use of our tax dollars,” says Goetz.  This whole issue is pending before the Interior Board of Land Appeals.We moved for a stay and that board just hasn’t acted one way or nother, but the whole substantive issue is pending, and we expect to win that. Then what is the BLM going to do, ship them back to Oklahoma or Nevada?”

On sequester: “Maybe they have enough money now to move them into Montana, and not enough money later to move them out- who knows what the sequester is gonna do.”

Click here to listen to the full interview with Jim Goetz:

Click to Listen

While the knee-jerk reaction may be to see the fight as merely a battle between a Montana ranch family and a top NBC executive, Goetz also notes that many Montana ranchers oppose efforts to bring more wild horses to the state.  If you go seven and a half minutes into the interview, Goetz says Mr. Burke is “protecting the very traditional ranching qualities of the Madison Valley.  On the other hand, their neighbor is now sucking at the federal nipple.”

Then again- what would the folks at MSNBC think of their own CEO taking a stand against wild horses?  (Listen to Goetz’ answer at the 8:30 mark)

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management says sequester isn’t gonna slow this horse transfer down.  Here’s what Melodie A. Lloyd, the spokesperson for BLM’s Montana/Dakotas office had to say: 

At this time all the horses will be shipped to Montana since this will save the program — and taxpayers — money.

I got that news as I was on the phone with Burke’s attorney Jim Goetz, who replied, “Well, it’s nice that they have a chief of communications.  That office probably won’t be cut by the sequester.”

As the shipping of 700 horses moves forward at a total cost of $64,000, BLM’s Washington office is issuing dire warnings about other programs being brought to a halt if we pass the deadline on sequester. 

From the BLM: 

The automatic, across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester that are set to take effect on March 1 will have serious impacts on the BLM’s stewardship responsibilities of the Nation’s public lands, including management of nationally significant landscapes and oversight of important energy resources.

Some of these resources generate significant revenue for Federal and state governments.  The development of oil and gas as well as coal on Federal lands will slow down due to cuts in programs that issue permits for new development, plans for new projects, conduct environmental reviews, and inspect operations.  Leasing of new Federal lands for future development will also be delayed, with fewer resources available for agencies to prepare for and conduct lease sales.

The BLM estimates that approximately 300 fewer onshore oil and gas leases will be issued delaying prospective production from those lease tracts and deferring royalty payments to the Treasury.  Likewise, delays in coal leasing will defer as much as $50 million to $60 million from the Treasury for each sale delayed.  The BLM shares revenues generated from both of these programs with local and state governments, which in turn must sustain the loss of income.

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