(Washington, D.C.) August 2, 2018 … The nation’s largest wild horse advocacy organization today condemned the outcome of a closed-door “roundtable” meeting yesterday in Salt Lake City hosted by U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, after which the Republican Congressman claimed 90 percent consensus behind his reported plan to remove 90,000 wild horses from Western public lands and to sterilIze entire herds in the American West.
The private meeting included representatives from a few animal welfare organizations and other interests hostile to wild horses. Representatives for the more than 100 wild horse advocacy and horse welfare organizations that endorsed a statement of principles opposing mass sterilization and removals were excluded from the meeting.
“Rep. Stewart’s agenda of mass roundups and forced sterilization of America’s wild horse herds is unscientific, unrealistically expensive, counter to the will of the American people, and would result in extinction for these iconic animals,” said Suzanne Roy, Executive Director of the American Wild Horse Campaign. “Stewart’s plan would overturn nearly 50 years of protection for mustangs and burros under a law passed unanimously by Congress that recognizes rightful place of these iconic animals on our Western public lands.”
“The ‘consensus’ from the roundtable does not speak for the 80 percent of Americans that want wild horses protected on our public lands,” said Brieanah Schwartz, Government Relations and Policy Counsel for the American Wild Horse Campaign. Of note is polling that shows 72 percent of Stewart’s own constituents support using humane birth control to manage wild herds, while nearly two-thirds oppose lethal management methods.
Referring to Stewart’s statement that he wants to remove wild horses “so they don’t compete with livestock and wildlife for food and water,” Schwartz continued: “Only 29 percent of Americans think public lands should be made available for livestock grazing, demonstrating that Americans clearly want the BLM to follow its statutory mandate to protect wild horses. In fact, livestock grazing is not required to fulfill the agency’s “multiple use” mandate, and it is far more cost effective to curtail taxpayer–subsidized spending on commercial livestock grazing than it is to permanently remove wild horses from the range.”
Meanwhile yesterday, as Rep. Stewart pushed his destructive wild horse agenda, the U.S. Senate passed a minibus spending bill that maintained protections for wild horses and did not authorize mass sterilization. The House bill, by contrast, contains the “Stewart Amendment” that authorizes BLM to manage wild horses in non-reproducing or single sex herds, to begin a mass sterilization, and to lay the foundation for killing horses over the age of 10 – barely middle age for wild horses.
“We commend the U.S. Senate for supporting science and the American people by maintaining long-standing protections for wild horses and burros and rejecting a risky and inhumane mass sterilization program,” Roy continued. “We will continue to work on Capitol Hill to ensure that the Senate version prevails as negotiations on a final spending bill continue.”
The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is dedicated to preserving American wild horses and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. Its grassroots mission is endorsed by a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, humane and public interest organizations.
In its 2013 report on the Wild Horse and Burro Program, the National Academy of Sciences concluded that the BLM’s “Appropriate” Management Levels (AMLs) are “not based on science” and “not transparent to stakeholders.” The national AML of 17,000 – 27,000 horse and burros is the number that existed in 1971 when Congress protected them because they were “fast disappearing.”
The agency’s AMLs are so absurdly low that In New Mexico, the AML on 14.5 million acres of BLM public land is 83 horses, or the equivalent of approximately three horses on all the land in the entire state of Rhode Island. In Stewart’s home state of Utah, the BLM’s AML also calls for the equivalent of three horses on a land mass roughly the size of all of Salt Lake City.
The 2013 National Academy of Sciences report recommended that the BLM use fertility control as an alternative the BLM’s current roundup/removal approach, but since that time the BLM has reduced its use of fertility control.
The BLM currently spends 63 percent of its $80 million a year to round up, remove and stockpile wild horses but zero percent of its budget on fertility control.
The push to slaughter wild horses is coming from a narrow – but powerful – special interest lobby in D.C. made up of millionaire and billionaire cattle ranchers on America’s federal lands. Public lands ranchers make up just 2 percent of U.S. cattle operators, represent just 0.06 percent of total employment in 11 western states and, according to some estimates, produce less than 2 percent of American beef. Public lands ranching produces just $1 out of every $2,500 in income and one out of every 2,000 jobs.
Over 80 percent of BLM land grazed by livestock nationally has no wild horses present on it. In Utah, livestock graze 22 million acres of BLM land, while wild horses are restricted 2.5 million acres of BLM land.
It is far more cost-effective to reduce livestock grazing on the small amount of public land grazed by livestock and manage horses humanely with birth control, than it is to fund Rep. Stewarts mass wild horse removal and sterilization plan.