When Ken Salazar announced his resignation earlier this month as Secretary of the Interior, it set off quivers of speculation among wild horse advocates about who might replace him in the post most important to the fate of the nation's vulnerable herds. Salazar, a longtime Colorado rancher, was never trusted by the wild horse community. Under his direction, the Bureau of Land Management has left the horses more exposed, literally and figuratively, than they've been in decades.
Very quickly, two main streams of thought emerged. Some horse activists worry that President Barack Obama will appoint Washington Governor Christine Gregoire to the post. The National Journal noted glowingly two weeks ago that as "a former head of Washington state's Department of Ecology, Gregoire is steeped in experience in energy and environmental issues. Her enthusiastic support for renewable energy has won plaudits from environmentalists."
But that's not how wild horse and other wildlife advocates necessarily see her. In November, in aWildlife News piece headlined "Governor Gregoire's Troubling Livestock Legacy," the lead paragraph offered another view of the potential nominee:
Washington Governor Christine Gregoire is rumored to be a front-runner for nomination as Secretary of the Interior, where she would oversee millions of acres of public land. But a livestock "pilot" program she instituted in Washington, which fast-tracked the introduction of livestock grazing on Washington Wildlife Areas free of charge to ranchers, while running roughshod over the concerns of agency wildlife biologists, should give wildlife advocates pause.
The other theme that quickly blossomed after Salazar's resignation announcement was the notion that the best candidate to replace him is Representative Raul Grijalva, a Democrat who has represented Arizona's 7th District in Congress since 2003. "He has been the most staunch supporter of wild horses in Congress for many years now," said Carol Walker, a renowned wild horse photographer who closely tracks the herds. Meanwhile, the folks at the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, representing 50 such horse organizations, quickly launched an online petition to support Grijalva's undeclared candidacy.