Interior secretary pressed to release findings on horse slaughter investigation

Greg Campbell | Contributor

Outgoing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar may be looking forward to getting back to his Colorado ranch next month, but some congressmen are urging him to take care of unfinished business by releasing the findings of an investigation that could implicate the Bureau of Land Management in selling 1,700 protected wild horses to a man who may have illegally sent them to slaughter.

The investigation centers around horse buyer Tom Davis, who told a ProPublica reporter last year that he lives near Salazar’s San Luis Valley home and does some trucking business with the interior secretary’s family.

Salazar later said he doesn’t know Davis, who’d been buying horses from the BLM for as little as $10 each since 2008, and insisted he has never done business with him.

BLM oversees the federal Wild Horse and Burro Program, which protects the animals from capture or slaughter. According to ProPublica, BLM turned a blind eye to what Davis may have been doing with the horses, alleging that many may have been sent to Mexican slaughterhouses.

The agency initiated the investigation into Davis last summer, but it was overtaken by the Interior Department’s inspector general. Salazar said it became clear that BLM personnel would likely come under investigation themselves.

Democratic Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva and Republican Kentucky Rep. Ed Whitfield have been collecting signatures on a letter on they’re circulating on Capitol Hill demanding that Salazar address the findings of the investigation before he leaves his Cabinet position.

“On November 13, 2012, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) delivered 25,130 signatures to DOI from concerned citizens around the country,” the letter states. “As of today, these citizens haven’t heard from you. ..We are troubled by your Department’s lack of response to the legitimate concerns raised by the AWHPC inquiry and your failure to acknowledge their correspondence. We respectfully ask you to give a written response within the next ten days.”

Interior spokesman Blake Androff told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email that the investigation is ongoing, referring questions to the inspector general’s office. The IG’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

BLM has been suffering for years from a surplus of horses living in holding corrals after they’d been thinned from overpopulated herds on federal lands. The ProPublica investigation, written by Colorado Springs Gazette reporter David Philipps, details how BLM unloaded hundreds of horses a year to Davis even as some BLM staffers were were uneasy dealing with a man who is outspoken in his belief that the horses should be sold for slaughter.

BLM recently changed some of its policies to restrict individuals from buying more than four horses every six months without the approval of BLM’s program oversight director.

Salazar has been testy when questioned about the BLM’s sales to Davis, once threatening to “punch out” Philipps when Philipps asked Salazar about it during an Obama campaign stop in Colorado Springs.

Salazar, who was caught on tape with the threat, later apologized.

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