The Government Shutdown: What it Means for Wild Horses

(December 22, 2018) ... Late last night, Congress failed to come to an agreement on a Continuing Resolution to keep the government running, sparking a partial government shutdown. If the last ditch efforts to negotiate a deal this weekend fail, and the shutdown goes into the holiday weekend and beyond, it is likely to impact many federal agencies including the U.S. Department of the Interior which has not been funded yet.  Here are five ways that wild horses and burros could be affected.

#1. Wild horses and burros in Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) holding facilities will continue to be fed and cared for. The BLM has previously confirmed to AWHC that this is considered an essential government service that will continue during the shutdown.

#2. Pending wild horse roundups and sales – could be delayed or cancelled. Depending on the length of the shutdown, it could affect the timing of the next scheduled roundup in the Pine Nut Mountains Herd Management Area (HMA) in Nevada. That means that the over 600 wild horses targeted for removal tentatively on January 7th could enjoy a few extra days - or weeks - of freedom on our public lands, again depending on how long it takes for Congress and the Administration to come together on a spending bill.

It is also likely that planned sales events for the Devil’s Garden wild horses will be cancelled or delayed, which is good news for the horses, since the Forest Service this week announced that it would start selling these cherished mustangs for $1 a piece, albeit “with limitations” on slaughter.

#3. Even if the Congress comes to agreement to restart the government, it will do so under a Continuing Resolution that will keep the government running under the provisions of the 2018 omnibus spending bill. That’s good news for wild horses and burros, because the 2018 bill prevents the BLM from spending money to destroy, sell for slaughter, or perform surgical sterilization on wild horses and burros.

#4. Deadlines for public comments on various proposed actions related to federally protected wild horses and burros may be extended. This may include certain BLM proposals related to the agency’s compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 that are now open for public comment.

#5. Wild horse and burro advocates will have to remain ready to act … but at the right time.  Calls to Congress at this moment urging continued protections for wild horses and burros are likely to be lost in all the noise on Capitol Hill.

It’s unclear whether Congress will return to deliberating actual Fiscal Year 2019 spending legislation.  When and if it does, members will decide between the Senate Interior Appropriations bill (which prohibits killing and slaughter of wild horses and burros) and the House version (which allows for the destruction of healthy wild horses and burros, putting tens of thousands in danger of being killed). That will be the time to weigh in and ensure that the voice of 80 percent of Americans who oppose the killing and slaughter of America’s iconic mustangs and burros is heard.

So stay informed, stay ready and stay tuned… We will keep you updated!