For immediate release
LOMPOC, CALIF.–Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation this week thanked the Senate Interior Appropriations Committee for including language in its Fiscal Year 2024 funding package that can improve the management of America’s wild horses and burros.
A national nonprofit advocacy organization, Return to Freedom (RTF) works with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to press the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on the immediate scaling up of safe, proven and humane fertility control for wild horses and burros as well as with a diverse array of public lands stakeholders to create broader acceptance of fertility control use.
If implemented correctly and robustly, fertility control would slow (not stop) the growth of wild herds, keeping them on their home ranges rather than relying on the costly and traumatic capture, removal and warehousing of wild horses and burros.
“We are grateful to the Senate for again supporting protections for wild horses by taking the vitally important step of directing — in clear language — that the Bureau of Land Management implement thoughtful management that results in the kinds of humane approaches for which Return to Freedom has tirelessly advocated,” said Neda DeMayo, president of RTF.
The Senate Committee’s guiding report language calls for $11 million “to be spent to continue implementation of a robust and humane fertility control strategy of reversible immunocontraceptive vaccines.”
The Senate Committee’s report emphasized that it “expects” the BLM to place “specific attention on”:
- “increasing the use of fertility control, including measurable objectives in reducing population growth with fertility controls,
- “targeting removals from the most heavily ecologically impacted and populated areas,
- “expanding long-term, off-range humane holding, and continuing adoptions while fully implementing and enforcing existing safeguards.”
The Senate Committee on Thursday approved a total of $148 million for wild horse and burro management for 2024. Congress allocated the same amount in 2023.
By comparison, the House Interior Appropriations Committee on June 19 approved $155 million for wild horse management in 2024.
The House Committee’s report language also sets aside $11 million for fertility control; however, it does not specify using the funding solely for immediate on-range implementation. The House also allows the money to be used for research, including on permanent sterilization, which RTF strongly opposes.
The Senate and House must now reconcile their differences.
RTF is calling on the House and Senate conferees to adopt the House’s funding level alongside the Senate’s guiding report language. RTF will continue to advocate for stricter wild horse and burro protections and for greater funding until the final bill is approved later this year.
As it has for decades, the BLM continues to emphasize capture-and-removal, putting off fertility control use while also failing to reach the agency’s own wild horse population targets. In FY 2022, for example, 20,193 wild horses and burros were removed from their home ranges while just 1,622 mares were treated and released with some form of fertility control.
Out of the BLM-estimated 141,000 federally protected wild horses and burros that the agency is charged with overseeing, 58,000 now live not on the range but in overcrowded government corrals or on leased pastures.
The cost to taxpayers of continued off-range holding of captured wild horses has climbed to more than $83 million annually. That has left little funding for prioritizing range management, restoration, personnel and administration, let alone fertility control.
Population modeling by RTF and other stakeholders has shown that immediately implementing fertility control alongside any removal that BLM conducts is the only way to catch up with and stabilize herd growth so that on-range management can replace removals.
Please call your members of Congress at (202) 224-3121. Urge them to support the House’s funding amount for wild horses and burros with the Senate’s funding language.
YOU CAN HELP
Please consider a donation to RTF’s Wild Horse Defense Fund. It supports our lobbying efforts, selective litigation and grassroots advocacy.