At about 11 a.m. today, 20 protesters and two horses walked along the path from Caras Park, down past the Holiday Inn, all the way to Senator Max Baucus' Missoula office.
The signs read:
"$100,000 Every Day"
BLM Stop the Tax Waste
The BLM: Managing our Wild Horses to Extinction
Stop the Roundups
The two Arabian Quarter horses (the horses in the march aren't wild or mustang considering, explained one protester, that mustangs might be unruly in public) were strapped with signs reading: "Broken Promises, Broken Horses" and "Save America's Wild Horses."
The protesters, members and supporters of In Defense of Animals (IDA) and The Cloud Foundation, are trying to raise awareness to urge President Obama to halt the BLM roundups until a different system of wild horse management has been put in place. Besides a moratorium on roundups, which these groups adamantly claim are brutal to the horses, their focus is on fending off Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's transplant plan. Despite the 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act designating BLM's protection of wild horses, controversy on how to manage the horses continues, as we wrote in a recent feature story.
One protester, Sandy Elmore, says that while the BLM claims 37,000 wild horses roam public lands, independent analysis says the number is closer to 15,000.
"We want the BLM program to be reworked," she says. "The BLM has no accurate inventory."
Protester Mike Ludtke says that horses do need to be managed, but that "there needs to be a certain science to it." He says that the BLM shouldn't manage horses and that those scientists and researchers already working on issues of birth control and ecology should be the ones creating a plan.
"The BLM does a lot of good things, but not with this," he says.
The protesters marched by Baucus' office, and one protester ran in and passed out pamphlets to people inside. Walking by Macy's, the group stopped for cars of people taking advantage of the store's closing sales as they turned into the parking. The horses took advantage of the moment to drop some horse apples. But the protesters were ready for it. One woman put down a bucket and began scraping the manure into it. And as the sun came out and the clouds disappeared, the group continued on to Tester's office.