Washington, DC - Yesterday, the House Appropriations approved legislative and report language in the FY 2020 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill related to wild horse and burro management.

While the bill does include language sought by the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) to impose on the Forest Service the same prohibition on slaughtering wild horses and burros that applies the BLM, the legislation provides $6 million for to begin implementation of a dangerous mass roundup and removal plan promoted by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Public Lands Council and other Agribusiness lobbying groups along with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the ASPCA.

Presented as a broad stakeholder compromise, the plan is actually opposed by the vast majority of stakeholders in the wild horse protection community.

“We strongly oppose the cattlemen’s plan for America’s wild horses and burros, which will ultimately achieve the industry’s long-held goal of eradicating wild free-roaming horse and burro populations from the American West,”  said Suzanne Roy, Executive Director of the AWHC.

“While the Committee rejected the full $50 million appropriations request originally sought by plan proponents, the language provides sufficient funding for the BLM to conduct mass roundups and removals of wild horses from public lands and inhumane surgical sterilization methods that the scientific community has warned against,” Roy continued. “As a result, we will be asking Congress to modify the language to ensure that the program is instead implemented in a humane, scientific, and socially acceptable manner.”

"The BLM has invested hundreds of millions of our tax dollars in roundups and removals of wild horses and burros through the years and just a trickle of dollars for fertility control on the range," said Marty Irby, Executive Director of Animal Wellness Action (AWA).  "The Congress should not enable the agency to maintain its pattern of lopsided expenditures and should instead stipulate that these new monies be devoted to humane, effective birth control strategies to limit the growth of herds in the West."

 Key components of the cattlemen’s  plan include:

  • Unprecedented mass wild horse and burro roundups removals from public lands 130,000 wild horses and burros (more than exist today in the wild) targeted for removal over 10 years.
  • Reduction of wild herds to 27,000 animals -- the number that existed in 1971 when Congress passed a law to protect the West’s iconic wild horses and burros because they were “fast disappearing from the American scene.”'
  • Use of “fertility control” of 90% of the horses and burros who remain on the range, including surgical sterilization of wild horses via invasive methods such as “ovariectomy via colpotomy” surgery on wild mares that the BLM is currently pursuing despite the National Academy of Sciences’ warning that the procedure is “inadvisable for field application” due to risk of bleeding and infection.
  • Near tripling of the population of wild horses incarcerated at taxpayer expense, with no long term guarantee of funding to ensure their safety.
  • Unprecedented manipulation of wild herds through sex ratio skewing to achieve populations comprised as 70% stallions and 30% mares, which will cause extreme social disruption and aggression on the range.

The groups said that they would urge Congress to revise the current appropriations language to ensure that the additional funds are spent primarily to implement scientifically-recommended and humane fertility control methods. This revision is consistent with language requested by House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raul Grijalva and Nevada Congresswoman Dina Titus to require the BLM to spend at least $4 million to implement proven PZP fertility control programs.

The BLM currently spends 68 percent of its budget to round up, remove and store wild horses in pens and pastures, but zero percent on implementing humane PZP fertility control programs.  Any removals conducted with the additional funds should be limited to Herd Management Areas where independently verifiable emergency conditions exist that threaten the immediate well being of wild horses and or burros living there, according to the groups.