(December 18, 2019)... Today all eyes are focused on Congress and the impeachment vote, but yesterday they passed legislation that is the biggest threat to wild horses in a generation. On Tuesday in Congress, the House of Representatives passed two bills that will fund the federal government through September 2020. Today, the Senate is expected to follow suit, sending the legislation to the White House before the current spending bills expire at midnight on Thursday, when the government will run out of money. Nearly a full three months late, the fiscal year 2020 budget funds the Interior Departement's Bureau of Land Management and their Wild Horse and Burro Program, which manages wild horses on public land across the west.
Despite BLM's record of mismanagement, cruelty, and waste, Congress saw fit to increase the program's budget from just over $80 million last year to $101 million for this fiscal year, even after BLM only requested $75 million for the year. Congress and the agency intend for the additional $21 million to go toward implementing BLM's yet to be released plan to cull the herds down to AML levels. As we've noted here many times here, the AMLs are really extinction-level numbers of wild horses, arrived at when the mustangs were first determined to be endangered and numbers that are not supported by science. This funding represents an unprecedented attack on the herds done, they say, to preserve the rangeland habitat. But we well know, our majestic wild mustangs will be replaced by agribusiness's subsidized cattle, not empty land--$101 million tax dollars to remove horses to make room for cattle is not responsible and it's not right.
Congress did, however, attach some strings to the extra $21 million in funding to round up wild horses. BLM will not have access the extra funding until 60 days after it sends to Congress a detailed plan, among other things, "focused on implementing a strategy aimed at minimizing future removals and maximizing treatment and retreatment of on-range animals.” Unfortunately, the language directs BLM to use fertility control to maintain horses at the "appropriate” management levels, that will be achieved by herd culls of 70%.
The plan appropriators are pushing, the one touted by the HSUS, ASPCA and the Cattlemen's Beef Association, calls for removing 130,000 horses from public lands and housing them in pens hundreds of miles away -- that's more mustangs than currently exist today! Nonetheless, we will work as long as this bill is in effect to push for a BLM plan that emphasizes PZP, not sterilization and round-ups.
It is going to be an uphill battle, but our efforts, even against these well-funded special interests, have yielded great results. In fact, we expected much worse out of Congress and their Big Agribusiness supporters this year. The additional strings attached to the $21 million funding increase noted above were due in large measure to Chairman Raúl Grijalva's letter opposing the Washington DC insider plan. This letter, signed by 11 of Rep. Grijalva’s colleagues was a direct result of AWHC's work and supported by your grassroots energy and activism. AWHC also worked to ensure that slaughter remained off the table for the Agriculture Department (U.S. Forest Service) for wild horses in our National Forests and again for the Interior Department for mustangs and burros living on BLM-managed lands. We're going to need even more of your support in the coming months as BLM, with the support of Cattlemen/HSUS/ASPCA, quietly rolls out a plan to remove as many wild horses as they can from public lands. When the DC insiders think no one is paying attention to their schemes, we'll be there in Washington and across the West protecting wild horses and burros, not profiting from them. We won’t waiver in the fight against BLM and the special interests that want to destroy America’s mustangs, but we will need your support and activism to be effective -- only when Congress hears from all of us as one will they step up and do the right thing.
We hope you'll help us demand Congressional oversight of this cruel and wasteful program and continue to advocate for wild horses and burros in 2020.