Senate Committee Moves to Reform Fed'l Wild Horse and Burro Program

Washington, DC (July 28, 2022) — Today, the nation’s leading wild horse protection organization, the American Wild Horse Campaign, commended the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee for including reversible immunocontraceptive fertility control vaccines in its fiscal year 2022 Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies bill released today.

“We thank Interior Appropriations subcommittee Chair Jeff Merkley for his work to help reform the federal government’s Wild Horse and Burro Program by emphasizing the need for improved management strategies and providing funding for a robust fertility control vaccine program — a humane on-range management tool that will ultimately help keep these animals in the wild where they belong,” said Holly Gann Bice, Director of Government Relations for AWHC. “We have witnessed far too many deaths and injuries caused by helicopter roundups this year, including a young foal suffering a broken leg as he was relentlessly chased by a helicopter, a foal being body slammed by a contractor, and horses suffering horrifically from broken necks. The need to move toward on-range management is now more urgent than ever before.”

The request to protect wild horses and burros in the legislation was championed by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). “We are tremendously thankful to Senator Cory Booker for his steadfast work to protect America’s wild horses and burros,” said Gann Bice

Importantly, the Senate Interior bill maintains long-standing, critical provisions intended to prevent wild horses and burros from being sent to slaughter. 

The report also veered away from language blaming wild horses for land damage and making the land less resilient to climate change. While wild horses and burros are often blamed for causing damage to the land, new research shows that these animals, particularly burros, provide important ecological services. Burros dig deep “wells” that provide water for wildlife, which is a valuable ecological service in times of drought. Environmental organizations, such as Sierra Club and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), have called for the removal of privately-owned cows and sheep from wild horse and burro habitat due to the overgrazing and degradation these animals contribute to on public lands. 

At the same time, AWHC expressed disappointment that the bill provides increased funding that can be used for roundups and removals. Currently, the BLM spends 1% of its Wild Horse and Burro Program budget on fertility control, but spends approximately $86.5 million in taxpayer dollars annually rounding up horses from the range and keeping them in long-term holding facilities indefinitely. This brutal roundup process often results in injury or death.

In May 2020, under the previous administration, the BLM released a management plan that called for the removal of 18,000-20,000 wild horses and burros per year. The plan would balloon the number of horses and burros confined in holding facilities and cost taxpayers nearly $1 billion in the first five years alone. Currently, over 58,000 wild horses and burros are confined in government-holding facilities.

About AWHC

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 and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. In addition to advocating for the protection and preservation of America's wild herds, AWHC implements the largest wild horse fertility control program in the world through a partnership with the State of Nevada for wild horses that live in the Virginia Range near Reno.