Senate Committee Moves to Reform Federal Wild Horse Program

Photographer viewing wild mare and her foal on open land.
Photographer viewing wild mare and her foal on open land. Cloud Foundation

Newsdate: Wednesday, October 20, 2021 - 11:35 am

The nation’s leading wild horse protection organization, the American Wild Horse Campaign, commended the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on a historic move to protect the West’s wild horses in its fiscal year 2022 Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related agencies bill released today.

Wild horses and foal being chased by BLM helicopters.

Wild horses and foal being chased by BLM helicopters

In historic move, Senate Appropriations aligns with House on directing BLM to utilize humane fertility control in treatment of wild horses.
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Championed by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), the appropriations bill sets aside $11 million in dedicated funding to “implement a robust and humane fertility control strategy of reversible immunocontraceptive vaccines.” The committee language further provided acknowledgment that these tools are available now and that removals alone are counterproductive. The language states the BLM must report back within 45 days with its strategy for a vaccination initiative—a move to ensure the agency is held accountable.

“We applaud the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee for taking a historic step toward reforming the Wild Horse and Burro Program by providing $11 million in funding for reversible fertility control vaccines — a humane on-range management strategy that will ultimately help keep these animal in the wild where they belong,” said Holly Gann Bice, Director of Government Relations for AWHC. “We’re deeply grateful to Senator Booker and others for providing the necessary leadership to place the BLM on a more sustainable and fiscally responsible track for the humane management of our Western herds.”

At the same time, AWHC expressed disappointment that the bill provides increased funding for roundups and removals, meanwhile a new report shows that livestock, not wild horses, are a significant cause of land degradation on the 12% of public lands designated as wild horse habitat. Environmental organizations, such as Sierra Club and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), have recently 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.

Currently, the BLM spends less than 1% of its Wild Horse and Burro Program budget on fertility control, but spends approximately $60 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 more than 90,000 wild horses and burros from public lands over the next five years. The plan would balloon the number of horses and burros warehoused in holding pens and cost taxpayers nearly $1 billion in the first five years alone.

Importantly, the Senate Interior bill maintains long standing, critical provisions intended to prevent wild horses and burros from being sent to slaughter. The committee further called for the Interior Department to set up an interagency council to address wild horse and burro management. Taken together, these recommendations could result in meaningful reforms to the broken federal Wild Horse and Burro Program.

Finally, in a new development, the Committee recognized that removals of wild horses from the range can have the “unintended effect of increasing foaling,” echoing a key finding of the National Academy of Sciences report, which stated that roundups can accelerate population growth rates through a biological phenomenon called compensatory reproduction.

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.

Press release by Amelia Perrin,

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