(June 18, 2019) If you've followed the plight of wild horses and burros in the past, then you almost certainly know the importance of Congress's yearly "appropriations" bills. For the uninitiated, appropriations bills both fund government operations and contain policy riders that affect how the government carries out its mission throughout the year. Virtually every year, for instance, Congress has protected wild horses from being sold for slaughter with a policy rider prohibiting the practice.
In the House, the two packages, known as “minibuses,” are slated to be finished this week. The House will take up two funding packages: a roughly $1 trillion package that includes labor, health and human services, education, defense, state, foreign operations and energy and water development; and a separate $383 billion package that includes commerce, justice, science, agriculture, rural development, the Food and Drug Administration, interior, environment, military construction, veterans affairs, transportation, and housing and urban development.
Of interest to AWHC members and anyone who cares about the welfare of wild mustangs, the Interior & Environment title funds the Wild Horse and Burro Program in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and contains policy language important to the future of wild horses on public lands in the west. Our review of the House legislation indicates it contains one very good provision--an extension of the so-called slaughter prohibition to wild horses on U.S. Forest Service land, and one potentially catastrophic provision--a risky scheme to remove enough horses from the range to return populations to extinction levels for the benefit of ranchers.
The House should begin voting on amendments to the Interior and Environment section later this week, followed by passage on Thursday. Because Republicans control the Senate and Democrats the House, there is less agreement than usual about the total funding levels and policy provisions included in the bills. The two sets of bills may be wildly different but must be reconciled before they become law. It is critical that the Senate passes a bill which protects wild horses and burros better than the House has done.