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Gazette Premium Content Congressmen call for answers on federal wild horse program

DAVE PHILIPPS Updated: January 30, 2013 at 12:00 am

A bipartisan pair in Congress is demanding to know what the Department of Interior has uncovered in an investigation of more than 1,700 federally protected wild horses that may have been illegally sent to slaughter.

In September an investigation by ProPublica, published in The Gazette, uncovered how the department sold truckloads of mustangs to a Colorado horse slaughter proponent named Tom Davis who quickly shipped them out of state. The fate of the horses is unknown.

Reps. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Ed Whitfield, R-Ky, wrote a letter to Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar this week saying, “As you are aware, the ProPublica revelations have provoked a substantial public outcry. Leading organizations and the public have stepped forward to express their concern with the idea that America’s wild horses could be sold by their government to be slaughtered.”

The pair began circulating the letter in Congress, collecting signatures from other lawmakers this week, according to Adam Sarvana, a spokesman for Grijalva, the top Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulations.

The department has not explained what role it had in selling so many horses to what the letter called “a longtime kill buyer,” the lawmakers said.

In the wake of the ProPublica report, the Bureau of Land Management announced an investigation of Davis. The Department of Interior’s Inspector General took over the investigation in October, as it became clear that the wrong-doing could also include the BLM, Salazar told The Gazette. An unnamed federal law enforcement agency is also investigating, according to an agent who contacted The Gazette. The Inspector General has not released its findings.

“We are troubled by your Department’s lack of response to the legitimate concerns,” the lawmakers said in their letter. Sarvana said the lawmakers want answers before Salazar leaves his Cabinet position at the end of March. He is expected to return home to Colorado. “We respectfully ask you to give a written response within the next ten days,” Grijalva and Whitfield conclude.

Sarvana said that a growing number of lawmakers has signed the letter. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-El Paso County, did not sign the letter, according to his spokeswoman.

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