Focus back on Senate as fight for wild horses intensifies

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Stallions at Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary. Photo by Tony Stromberg.


Wild Horse Nation,

The legislative battle on behalf of wild horses just grew rougher for wild horse advocates.

To recap:

In July, the House Appropriations Committee narrowly voted down an anti-horse slaughter amendment, then approved another that would allow the Bureau of Land Management to kill healthy, unadopted wild horses and burros.

In response, bipartisan amendments were introduced to stop slaughter and the mass killing of wild horses.

Unfortunately, in meetings held yesterday and today, the House Rules Committee rejected both amendments, stopping them from going to the House floor for a vote.

While out of step with Americans and many in Congress, the majority-controlled Rules Committee’s decisions are consistent with the president’s 2018 budget request and with the earlier, Republican-led votes on horse slaughter and wild horses in the House Appropriations Committee.

It’s deeply disturbing that moneyed interests and the BLM have largely succeeded in painting a (false) picture of rangelands devastated by what they portray (untruthfully) as starving wild horses, while photographers at various times of the year show that the overwhelming majority have good weight on them . They’ve done so while scarcely mentioning the cattle that outnumber wild horses 37 to 1, even on the public land set aside for wild horses, or the other uses of those lands.

It is also inexcusable that BLM created this current “crisis” by continuing to use captures and removals as their primary management strategy, despite the many directives from Congress to implement on-range management alternatives and the use of fertility control. In 2007 the BLM was just 1,000 horses short of their population goal or appropriate management level (AML) of 27,492 yet they used less than 1% of their annual program budget for fertility control.

There’s no talk of finding balance, of sustainable, humane solutions — of any real plan from BLM, at all.

It’s equally disturbing to see both horse slaughter and the preservation of these icons of the West turning increasingly partisan when this should be a nonpartisan issue. The 1971 Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act passed Congress unanimously and signed into law by President Nixon. Eighty percent of Americans oppose horse slaughter and a similar majority wish to see wild horses protected.

RTF believes that conserving our shared public lands and the wildlife and habitat on them is the responsibility of all Americans, regardless of party.

What’s next

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bipartisan anti-slaughter amendment in July, but it has not addressed wild horses. The Senate’s timeline remains unclear.

If Congress excuses years of BLM mismanagement – including never investing more than 4% of the program’s budget on proven, humane tools like fertility control vaccines – the agency would move from inhumane capture-and-removal toward an even darker place, one even further away from on-the-range solutions. It would also embolden those who are intent on ridding the range of wild horses, altogether.

As discouraging as this week’s news from the House is, we must get up, dust ourselves off and keep fighting. RTF is on the ground in Washington, D.C., working to undo these damaging horse measures and will do so until the very end. Please continue calling your senators and spreading the word.

At stake are not only the lives of 45,000 wild horses and burros in government facilities and 73,000 on our public lands, but the future of America’s wild horses and burros.

The RTF Team

Take Action

Please note:  If you’d like to call the Senate Appropriations Committee, please do. If a staffer suggests calling your own senators, tell them that you have done so (see above) but you believe it’s important to share your opinion with the committee. For a full list of committee members, click here. If you are unable to reach a Washington, D.C., office, check the senator’s website for district office phone numbers.

Sign our Wild on the Range petition in support of humane wild horse management solutions.

Send a message of thank you to members of thank you to members of Congress co-sponsoring the SAFE Act or urging others to back the bill.

Sign our petition in support of the SAFE Act.

Write a letter to the editor in support of America’s wild horses.

Meet with your Congressional representatives or their staff.

Donate to the Wild Horse Defense Fund to support RTF’s advocacy efforts at this crucial time