House OKs $102.6 million for wild horse program, amendment requiring BLM to spend portion on PZP

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Photo taken at RTF’s San Luis Obispo, Calif., satellite sanctuary by Deb Hofstetter.

The House of Representatives on Friday approved a Fiscal Year 2021 funding package that includes $102.6 million for the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program and continues key protections for America’s horses.

The House also passed an amendment introduced by Reps. Steve Cohen, D-TN, and Dina Titus, D-NV, and supported by Return to Freedom, requiring the BLM to utilize $11 million from the program’s budget to implement the humane, reversible fertility control vaccine PZP to manage wild horse populations.

Approved on Thursday, the amendment is in total alignment with RTF’s work with diverse stakeholders for increased funding for non-lethal management solutions based on increasing the use of proven, safe and humane fertility control.

Though putting $11 million toward PZP will be a sizable investment in fertility control, more will be needed — as will continued vigilance on the part of advocacy organizations like RTF and oversight on the part of Congress to ensure that taxpayer funding goes toward a properly implemented, robust program of proven, safe and humane fertility control. 

“It’s significant that in the midst of climatic and economic concerns, not to mention a pandemic, a much-needed conversation continues among diverse public land stakeholders to find non-lethal solutions to manage our wild horse and burro populations and that we are being heard by Congress,” said Neda DeMayo, president of Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation. “The global trend for successful conservation efforts relies on those with divergent opinions and agendas finding common ground to benefit threatened species, resources and habitat.”

Faced with an unprecedented push on Capitol Hill for the use of lethal management tools like euthanasia and unrestricted sale (to slaughter) starting in 2017, RTF was part of a years-long effort to provide Congress with a viable science-based, non-lethal alternative that could achieve bipartisan support.

That work helped yield the $21 million increase for the program from Congress in FY 2020 and directions from appropriators that BLM needed to pursue a new non-lethal, humane management direction including a significant increase in fertility control. We are pleased that Congress has maintained the $21 million increase for 2021.

The House kept overall funding for the wild horse program roughly flat compared to Fiscal Year 2020, when Congress allocated $101.6 million for the BLM program.

The Fiscal Year 2021 spending package approved in Friday’s floor vote, H.R. 7608, continues a prohibition on both the BLM and U.S. Forest Service using taxpayer funding to euthanize or sell without restriction (to slaughter) healthy wild horses and burros. 

It also continues to bar the U.S. Department of Agriculture from using funds to hire horsemeat inspectors, keeping in place an effective ban on horse slaughter within U.S. borders.

RTF is grateful to members of Congress for their continued focus on making the management of federally protected wild herds more humane and sustainable. We will continue our fight to ensure that increased taxpayer funding amounts to more than a symbolic gesture, but rather is used to launch a robust fertility control program.

As attention now turns to the Senate, RTF will continue to advocate for: consistent funding support for, and the implementation of, safe, proven and humane fertility control vaccines, like the longer-lasting PZP-22 as well as PZP, public-private partnerships like darting programs and herd monitoring, and rangeland restoration while strongly opposing surgical sterilization of wild mares and burro jennies and lethal tools like euthanasia or unrestricted sale (to slaughter).

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