Statement from Neda DeMayo, Founder and President of Return to Freedom:
“It’s disheartening to hear that the Advisory Board has made the same backwards recommendations that caused an emotional backlash from the public each the last two years. The challenge we’re presented with on our public lands is not the fault of the horses or of taxpayers but of years of government mismanagement when other viable options existed.
“It is time for Congress to stand firm and force the Bureau of Land Management to use proven, safe and humane methods, including fertility control, to manage wild horses and burros on their home ranges, once and for all. The public has made it clear for decades – since the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 — that they want America’s wild horses and burros living protected and free on their designated lands.
“We have the technology. It’s time to stop the excuses. We need the agency to step up and provide a non-lethal, humane and sustainable plan that provides for the freedom and diversity of America’s wild horses and burros.”
The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board voted 5-2 to support a Bureau of Land Management plan to reach its population target for wild horses and burros within eight years by killing healthy animals and unlimited sales – including international sales and adoptions.
At the meeting in Salt Lake City on Thursday, advocates Celeste Carlisle of Return to Freedom and Ginger Kathrens of The Cloud Foundation voted “no” on the recommendation.
Made up of members appointed by the secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture, the Advisory Board cannot control policy — only make recommendations. The board has long leaned toward ranching interests and at its last two meetings, in 2016 and 2017, voted to support euthanizing – shooting – healthy, unadopted wild horses.
Kathrens and Carlisle also voted “no” on recommendations supporting the research and funding of permanent sterilization of wild horses and burros and on BLM prioritizing reaching its “Appropriate Management Level” in three to five years through roundups. Board member Ben Masters abstained on the latter recommendation, saying he didn’t think it was realistic.
Carlisle, in her first meeting, also proposed a statement that the board prefers “nonlethal management options for population control purposes when possible.”
The board voted 4-3 to approve the statement with Kathrens, Steven Yardley and Tom Lenz voting no. With the board haggling over wording and rushing to meet a time limit on its webcast, Kathrens did not have time to explain her vote, but Yardley and Lenz both said that they were uncomfortable giving the impression lethal methods might not be the most humane answer in some instances.
Chair Fred Woehl said that Carlisle persuaded him that it was important to signal to advocates that it hopes will partner with BLM that the board’s first choice wasn’t killing wild horses and burros.
“This is goodwill. This is ambassadorship,” Carlisle said. “It’s a statement that I have heard almost all of you say: ‘Of course, we prefer nonlethal management options.’ And I think it’s really nice to state that publicly. It doesn’t take other options off the table.”
The Advisory Board also voted unanimously to support the following other recommendations (wording is unofficial):
- Encourage BLM to gather horses on HMAs that are over AML that are reliant upon supplemental water. Once the HMA is at AML, stop hauling water except in extreme circumstances.
- Continue to support an increase in funding for and use of programs like the Mustang Heritage Foundation Trainer Incentive Program to place horses and burros in good homes.
- Encourage volunteer and partnership opportunities for fertility control and adoptions including inmate training programs, 4-H and youth programs, local fertility control advocacy groups, public off-range pastures and organizations like the Mustang Heritage Foundation.
- Support the existing marketing research that BLM has completed and support implemental phases and items from the marketing report.
- Reach out to military and veteran organizations with help for adoption and volunteer fertility control applications.
- The board encourages the BLM to collaborate with interested equine advocacy groups to decrease current unadoptable horse and burro inventories.
- On the Herd Management Areas and Herd Areas that exceed AML, initiate emergency gathers where these boundaries overlap primary habitat of sensitive, threatened and endangered species and initiate evaluations to establish carrying capacity.
- Implement safe, reversible fertility control vaccines as part of the management control to mares captured and returned to the range.
- Update and make available to all BLM field offices the existing national database to track all treated mares.
Board members said that they hoped to meet next in Washington, D.C., in March.
Please call the Senate Conference Committee members listed below. Urge them to:
* Stand strong on Senate language protecting wild horses and burros;
* Stand strong on defunding horse slaughter;
* Demand that BLM revoke its quietly instituted wild horse sale policy change allowing more wild horses and burros to be sent to slaughter.
Sen. Richard Shelby, Alabama
Sen. Susan Collins, Maine
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska
Sen. John Hoeven, North Dakota
Sen. James Lankford, Oklahoma
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, Mississippi
Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont
Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Island
Sen. Tom Udall, New Mexico
Sen. Jeff Merkley, Oregon
Sen. Christopher Coons, Delaware
Note: If a staff member taking your call suggests calling your own senator, instead, please emphasize that wild horses and horse slaughter are issues of importance to all Americans and that you wanted to share your views with members of the Conference Committee. Remember that the Senate has been supportive of wild and domestic horses, so be polite and respectful of the staff when you call.