Return to Freedom’s Wild on the Range Campaign is comprised of humane, politically viable, and fiscally responsible management solutions for animals on the range and under government oversight. Together, they form a path to a sustainable future for America’s wild horses and burros.
Now is the time to create a proud vision that will ensure for generations to come the freedom, health and well-being of wild horses and burros on the range while saving taxpayers tens of millions of dollars annually.
The Bureau of Land Management manufactured a crisis by ignoring the availability of safe, effective fertility control vaccines and other humane options to control the number of horses and burros on the range. The agency used helicopters to round up horses before trucking them to the government corrals and pastures scattered throughout the Midwest where the BLM houses them at great cost.
Since 2007, BLM has never spent more than 3.94% of its annual Wild Horse and Burro Program budget allocation on safe and effective fertility control vaccines, instead focussing its budget on the capture, removal and off-range warehousing of wild horses.
Consequently, the agency finds itself under increasing pressure from Washington, D.C., to cut the costs of caring for captured wild horses and burros. At the same time, ranchers, other moneyed interests and some Western lawmakers press the BLM to capture and remove even more wild horses and burros from their home ranges.
It is not enough to say “no” to proposals that put the lives of wild horses on the line, though Return to Freedom strongly urges lawmakers to begin by doing so.
Congress should also adopt a pragmatic, multi-pronged – and bipartisan — approach supporting good range management for livestock and wildlife while providing an equitable allocation of forage and water to our wild horses and burros on designated Herd Management Areas.
A 2013 economic model published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine found that the BLM could attain its management goals within 12 years by investing in just one of the proposed solutions listed above: the judicious use of fertility control. The study found this would save $8 million at a single Herd Management Area.
Act now to control reproduction. Immediate and Increased implementation of available, humane fertility control vaccines. Use available technology now while researching longer-acting vaccines and solutions.
Initiate BLM Culture Shift in favor of on-the-range management solutions.
Smarter Spending. Redirect funds from capture, removal and long-term holding to less expensive on-the-range alternatives that involve participation from grazing permit holders and ranchers.
Adjust AMLs. Increase Appropriate Management Levels (AML) or manage to higher AMLs in healthy habitats. AML targets should be habitat and climate-based and we should decrease livestock AML in wild horse areas, where appropriate.
Reduce livestock grazing levels in Herd Management Areas and offer incentives to grazing permit holders (permanent or temporary adjustments to climate changes), including compensation for non-use of Animal Unit Months (AUM), allotment trades, and/or grazing permit buyouts.
Authorize gathers for fertility control. Current policy only allows roundups for removals. We must use roundups (bait trapping, helicopter roundups, etc.) for fertility control delivery and return to range.
Eco-Sanctuaries. Partner with qualified members of the public and 501c3 organizations to redirect funds from long-term holding to eco-sanctuaries that will prioritize:
- Gathering horses in their natural social bachelor and harem bands
- Relocating intact social bands to eco-sanctuaries
Managing populations in sanctuaries
Using fertility control to maintain population growth while preserving natural behaviors, lifestyle, and genetic viability.
- Vasectomy: Stallions can maintain hormone-driven behaviors and movement without reproducing
- Gelding: Stallions lose hormone-driven movement and behaviors
- No Sterilization. Follow National Academy of Sciences recommendations and reject plans to pursue sterilization of wild horses such as IUDs, spaying of mares, and surgical or chemical castration of wild horses on the range.
Tie Removals to Adoptions. BLM should never remove more horses from the range than it can annually adopt out.
Return to Freedom. Repatriate horses in holding to zeroed-out Herd Management Areas that still contain viable wild horse habitat.
Rescind the Burns Rider. The Burns Rider forces sale of wild horses to the highest bidder and was added to the Appropriations Act of 2005 without public or Congressional debate. The Rider overturned key sections of the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 that protected wild horses and burros from slaughter and allowed for their sale “without restriction.”
Pass the SAFE Act. Congress should permanently halt the slaughter of American horses for human consumption and the sale and transport of America’s equines for the purpose of slaughter for a food commodity. The bipartisan Safeguard American Foods Exports Act would amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to deem horses and other members of the equidae family an unsafe food additive or animal drug. It would also ban the knowing sale or transport of equines or equine parts in interstate or foreign commerce for purposes of human consumption.