House Approps Committee Approves Legislation to Begin Implementation of Dangerous Plan for Wild Horse Management

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Wild Horse/Animal Protection Groups Seek Changes to Avoid Mass Removals and Ensure Humane Management

WASHINGTON, DC (May 22, 2019) Today, the House Appropriations approved legislative and report language in the FY 2020 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill related to wild horse and burro management.

While the bill does include language sought by the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) to impose on the Forest Service the same prohibition on slaughtering wild horses and burros that applies the BLM, the legislation provides $6 million for to begin implementation of a dangerous mass roundup and removal plan promoted by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Public Lands Council and other Agribusiness lobbying groups along with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the ASPCA.

Presented as a broad stakeholder compromise, the plan is actually opposed by the vast majority of stakeholders in the wild horse protection community.

“We strongly oppose the cattlemen’s plan for America’s wild horses and burros, which will ultimately achieve the industry’s long-held goal of eradicating wild free-roaming horse and burro populations from the American West,”  said Suzanne Roy, Executive Director of the AWHC.

“While the Committee rejected the full $50 million appropriations request originally sought by plan proponents, the language provides sufficient funding for the BLM to conduct mass roundups and removals of wild horses from public lands and inhumane surgical sterilization methods that the scientific community has warned against,” Roy continued. “As a result, we will be asking Congress to modify the language to ensure that the program is instead implemented in a humane, scientific, and socially acceptable manner.”  

"The BLM has invested hundreds of millions of our tax dollars in roundups and removals of wild horses and burros through the years and just a trickle of dollars for fertility control on the range," said Marty Irby, Executive Director of Animal Wellness Action (AWA).  "The Congress should not enable the agency to maintain its pattern of lopsided expenditures and should instead stipulate that these new monies be devoted to humane, effective birth control strategies to limit the growth of herds in the West."

Key components of the cattlemen’s  plan include:

  • Unprecedented mass wild horse and burro roundups removals from public lands 130,000 wild horses and burros (more than exist today in the wild) targeted for removal over 10 years.

  • Reduction of wild herds to 27,000 animals -- the number that existed in 1971 when Congress passed a law to protect the West’s iconic wild horses and burros because they were “fast disappearing from the American scene.”

  • Use of “fertility control” of 90% of the horses and burros who remain on the range, including surgical sterilization of wild horses via invasive methods such as “ovariectomy via colpotomy” surgery on wild mares that the BLM is currently pursuing despite the National Academy of Sciences’ warning that the procedure is “inadvisable for field application” due to risk of bleeding and infection.

  • Near tripling of the population of wild horses incarcerated at taxpayer expense, with no long term guarantee of funding to ensure their safety.

  • Unprecedented manipulation of wild herds through sex ratio skewing to achieve populations comprised as 70% stallions and 30% mares, which will cause extreme social disruption and aggression on the range.

The groups said that they would urge Congress to revise the current appropriations language to ensure that the additional funds are spent primarily to implement scientifically-recommended and humane fertility control methods. This revision is consistent with language requested by House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raul Grijalva and Nevada Congresswoman Dina Titus to require the BLM to spend at least $4 million to implement proven PZP fertility control programs.

The BLM currently spends 68 percent of its budget to round up, remove and store wild horses in pens and pastures, but zero percent on implementing humane PZP fertility control programs.  Any removals conducted with the additional funds should be limited to Herd Management Areas where independently verifiable emergency conditions exist that threaten the immediate well being of wild horses and or burros living there, according to the groups.

Background

Legislative Language in FY 2020 Interior Appropriations Legislation

Legislation: https://appropriations.house.gov/sites/democrats.appropriations.house.gov/files/FY2020%20Interior%20Sub%20Markup%20Draft.pdf

  • For necessary expenses for protection, use, improvement, development, disposal, cadastral surveying, classification, acquisition of easements and other interests in lands, and performance of other functions, including maintenance of facilities, as authorized by law, in the management of lands and their resources under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management, including the general administration of the Bureau, and assessment of mineral potential of public lands pursuant to section 1010(a) of Public Law 96–487 (16 U.S.C. 3150(a)), $1,265,097,000,  to remain available until September 30, 2021; of which $125,653,000 for annual and deferred maintenance shall remain available until expended, and of which $6,000,000 is for a pilot program to complement activities authorized by Public Law 92–195.

  • Funds appropriated to the Forest Service shall not be available for the destruction of healthy, unadopted, wild horses and burros in the care of the Forest Service or its contractors or for the sale of wild horses and burros that results in their destruction for processing into commercial products.

Report Language Relating to Wild Horses and Burros

Report: https://appropriations.house.gov/sites/democrats.appropriations.house.gov/files/FY2020%20Interior%20Report%20Draft.pdf

  • With respect to the Wild Horse and Burro program, the Committee recognizes and appreciates that several stakeholder groups who each have avid, although diverging, interests in the program, have come together on a non-lethal compromise proposal based on the following four aspects: strategic gatherings in the most densely populated herd management areas; relocating animals currently in holding facilities and those being removed from the range to larger, more cost-effective pasture facilities; increased and vigorous fertility control strategies to help reduce the population growth; and increased adoptions. The Committee believes these concepts, once more fully developed by program specialists at the Bureau, have merit. The Committee therefore recommends a program increase of $6,000,000 for the Bureau to work with interested stakeholders to further develop a science-based removal, fertility control, and relocation pilot program targeted to the two or three most severely impacted herd management areas, and to begin to implement and scale up such plans once metrics for delineating a positive outcome have been designed and achieved. All removals must follow the guidelines outlined in the Bureau’s Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy. All private parties providing care for wild horses and burros shall provide proof of their ability to offer humane conditions and protection against abuse, neglect, or slaughter. Private parties shall ensure that wild horses and burros will not be returned to the range. The Bureau should plan on presenting the Committee with a detailed briefing prior to obligation and expenditure of the program increase, and quarterly once the program is implemented.

  • Rewilding —The Committee recognizes the value of horse rewilding as one of many herd management strategies and encourages the Bureau to explore collaborations with suitable organizations and willing landowners to adopt, transport and locate horses to appropriate habitats at no cost to taxpayers.

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The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is the nation’s leading wild horse protection organization, with more than 700,000 supporters and followers nationwide. AWHC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.

Animal Wellness Action (AWA) is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) organization with a mission of helping animals by promoting legal standards forbidding cruelty. We champion causes that alleviate the suffering of companion animals, farm animals, and wildlife. We advocate for policies to stop dogfighting and cockfighting and other forms of malicious cruelty and to confront factory farming and other systemic forms of animal exploitation. To prevent cruelty, we promote enacting good public policies and we work to enforce those policies. To enact good laws, we must elect good lawmakers, and that’s why we remind voters which candidates care about our issues and which ones don’t. We believe helping animals helps us all.