(February 15, 2019) In what might be considered a Valentine’s Day miracle, the House passed a spending package Thursday night which included funding for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Department of the Interior, completing congressional action to avert a government shutdown with barely a day to spare. Earlier in the day, the Senate passed the $333 billion fiscal 2019 package by an 83-16 vote. President Trump has indicated that he will sign the measure into law before Friday at midnight when funding for multiple federal agencies runs out once again.
Passage of the spending bill, in which funding for the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program was included, came after a four-and-a-half month delay completing fiscal 2019 appropriations. The program was allocated $80.5 million, roughly $5 million more than in 2018. AWHC and other wild horse advocates achieved several significant victories in the legislation, once again ensuring riders that prohibit slaughter of healthy horses and sale for commercial use were included, as well as stopping a provision in the original House version that funded a program of mass surgical sterilization of wild horses and which sought to create single-sex, non-reproducing herds—the very opposite of wild, free-roaming mustangs.
AWHC’s position that the plan was profoundly inhumane and contrary to the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act’s intent to preserve the wild nature of mustangs on the western range was shared by champions in the Senate like Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ranking Member Tom Udall (D-NM), and Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) who helped remove the House language. Our team worked all year to ensure congressional support to remove the provision and we’re grateful that our allies in the House and Senate that ultimately agreed with our stance. In this year's bill, however, Congress continues to consider the western range “over-populated” with wild horses and requested BLM report back with a strategy to control mustang populations by, "researching and developing appropriate, humane protocols for fertility control methods, including sterilization,” within 180 days. While we have and will continue to support fertility control methods like PZP, we cannot accept any program that included sterilization of the type BLM has proposed for wild horses on the range.