The 10 Years to AML: The Path Forward for Management of BLM's Wild Horses and Burros is an agenda of the livestock industry, which aims to eradicate wild horses from America's public lands.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved $35 million last week for the program supported by an unprecedented alliance including the Humane Society of the United States, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and American Farm Bureau Federation.
They say it would eliminate the threat of slaughter for thousands of free-roaming horses and shrink the size of herds primarily through expanded fertility controls on the range. Critics say it drops long-held opposition to the capture of mustangs across 10 western states and could allow for sterilization of mares — a hot-button issue with horse protection advocates historically.
It should be noted that in July 2019, the acting director of BLM, Casey Hammond, said the Trump administration won’t pursue lethal measures such as euthanasia or selling horses for slaughter. So the fear-based marketing HSUS and ASPCA are using, saying their Path Forward plan would save wild horses from slaughter, has no merit.
They had sought a $50 million increase in the BLM’s $80 million annual horse budget, arguing any boost in spending on contraception and other population controls ultimately will save money as herds shrink.
“This is a historic moment for our herds, containing the strongest language protecting wild horses and burros we have ever seen in an annual appropriations bill,” Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA, said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press on Friday. He said it increases “commitments to protect these animals from killing or sale to slaughter.”
If implemented, “we’ll see massive round-ups, swelling captive wild horse population and jubilation from cattlemen’s associations that secured political cover from the Humane Society for their long-time aspiration to secure a government-funded wild horse depopulation program,” Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action, said after the vote.
BLM estimated 88,000 wild horses and burros are roaming public rangelands, more than three times what the agency says the land can support. Another 50,000 that have been removed from the range in recent years were in holding facilities at an annual cost of about $50 million.
Horse advocates have argued the animals must be permitted to roam the range in federally protected management areas established under the Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971. They say BLM’s population quotas are often outdated and lack scientific data to support roundups to cull herd sizes.
Ginger Kathrens, director of The Cloud Foundation based in Colorado, said the new initiative dubbed the “Path Forward” should be called the “path to extinction.” She said it sets population targets to less than 27,000 — the total when federal protections first were enacted nearly a half-century ago. “The extinction-level number is what caused Congress to unanimously pass the Wild Horse and Burro Act,” she said.
Source: Time Magazine
U.S. Senate Committee Allocates $35 Million For Cattlemen's Plan to Roundup and Incarcerate Wild Horses
Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a Fiscal Year 2020 spending bill that includes a shocking $35 million in funding to implement a potentially catastrophic mass mustang roundup proposal promoted by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the so-called “American Mustang Foundation” and other agribusiness lobbying groups and, shockingly, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the ASPCA, and Return to Freedom, a sanctuary.
It could increase the number of horses to 150,000 maintained in captivity at taxpayer expense with no guarantee of funding for their long-term care. "This scheme is the biggest threat to wild horses and burros in the West in decades, and the American taxpayer is going to finance the whole shebang” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action and a lifelong horseman. “If this ghastly plan is implemented, we'll see massive round-ups, swelling captive wild horse populations, and jubilation from cattlemen's associations that secured political cover from the Humane Society of the U.S., Humane Society Legislative Fund, and ASPCA for their long-time aspiration to secure a government-funded wild horse depopulation program."
Key components of the “controversial and dangerous” cattlemen’s proposal includes:
Humane solutions that should be implemented instead:
We might as well call this what it is: “The Path Backward” or “The Path to Extinction,” since they’re reducing wild horses to the number that existed in 1971, stated Ginger Kathrens, Director of The Cloud Foundation. That extinction-level number is what caused Congress to unanimously pass the Wild Horse and Burro Act. This 'plan' will rip tens of thousands of horses and burros from their dedicated land and their families at catastrophic cost to the American taxpayer billions of dollars spent to incarcerate them in cramped corrals for the rest of their lives, except for the few that are adopted. Why? So private livestock interests, (subsidized by the BLM through your tax dollars), can run cattle on public lands. It's time for the American people to stand up and say, 'No more. Not with my tax dollars. There are better programs to spend these billions of dollars on than this.'
No matter how you see wild horses, it’s clear that they have been mismanaged by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for a long time at the cost of millions of taxpayer dollars. The BLM spent $81.226 million on managing wild horses for fiscal year 2018. Most of these horses and burros are removed from rangeland and placed indefinitely in holding pens. The animals are available for adoption but there are significantly more horses and burros captured annually than are adopted out.
Horse populations continue to rise unchecked and plans to sterilize horses were previously dropped by the BLM. Research even shows that the BLM’s removal of so many horses and burros probably drives up their population growth rates.
Now, Congressional Quarterly reports that there is a serious conflict of interest involved in BLM’s wild horse management. The House of Representatives passed the 2020 appropriations bill HR 3055 on June 25th, and approved of a plan to manage wild horses hashed out by different stakeholders.
The plan was created by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Return to Freedom, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), the American Farm Bureau, the Public Lands Council, the American Mustang Foundation, among others groups well known to be pro horse slaughter and hostile towards wild horses and burros.
For a full list of the "stakeholders", click here.
The plan is called ‘10 years to AML: A Proposal for BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program’ and doesn’t seem to offer much that hasn’t been tried or suggested in the past. The plan calls for removing more horses from rangeland to “more cost-effective pasture facilities” and fertility control for up to 90% of free range mares. This includes moving many of the horses to private pastures, said to be less expensive than many of the facilities they’re now housed in. These methods are promoted as an alternative to lethal population control methods. Despite the optimism of the plan, it has harsh critics.
All together, the plan seems like a humane way to remove the competition wild horses and burros represent to ranchers grazing livestock on public lands as well as native wildlife. Some wild horse advocates see this as an unacceptable compromise.
The future of the bill and how wild horses and burros will be managed is in the hands of the Senate now. Advocates of the bill asked for $50 million to implement the wild horse plan, the House appropriated $6 million for the Department of the Interior to begin implementing the plan. The Senate appropriations panel that oversees funding for the Department of the Interior. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is the chairwoman of the panel and her chief clerk is Emy Lesofski, who is married to Drew Lesofski, head of the American Mustang Foundation.
Drew Lesofski is a lobbyist who formerly worked for Jim Gibbons, then governor of Nevada. Nevada is home to 60% of wild horses living on public land in the US. Critics point out that the Mustang Foundation would potentially benefit if the plan to relocate horses to private holding facilities prior to adoption, all at a cost of millions to taxpayers. This obviously sets the stage for a conflict of interest. The question remains what other options to public land managers have?
Critics of the current plan seem to call for an on range management plan, which makes sense if you consider the wild horse as a part of the western American ecosystem. The key to the success of the plan isn’t removing and adopting horses out, which seems very unlikely to grow enough to significantly reduce wild horse numbers. Instead, the fertility control is key.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, removing wild horses only causes populations to grow faster. The question becomes, why remove horses at all when they’re only likely to cost taxpayers millions to keep? The new plan claims that marketing to east coast horse owners will increase adoption rates but it’s hard to say they will increase significantly. In the meantime, horses will be kept in captivity costing money and resources but no longer competing with livestock for grazing land.
A Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee will hold an oversight hearing this week to discuss strategies to reduce growing wild horse and burro herds.
Tomorrow's Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining hearing will "examine long-term management options for the Bureau of Land Management's Wild Horse and Burro Program," according to summary written by GOP staffers.
The hearing comes in advance of a much-anticipated report BLM is expected to submit to Congress next month detailing specific strategies and funding estimates for reducing the number of wild horses and burros.
What exactly BLM plans to include in the report is unclear. But Steve Tryon, BLM's deputy assistant director for resources and planning, is scheduled to testify at tomorrow's hearing and will almost certainly be grilled about the upcoming report.
One thing the report will not include is a standing Trump administration request for Congress to lift language in appropriations bills that forbids BLM from using euthanasia on healthy horses and burros that cannot be adopted.
Casey Hammond, the Interior Department's principal deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management who is temporarily overseeing BLM, announced last week at a national wild horse advisory panel meeting that euthanasia is "not an option that's being discussed in the bureau or the department".
How that new Trump administration position sits with conservative Republicans, like subcommittee Chairman Mike Lee of Utah, remains to be seen. But the topic of euthanasia as a option for culling herd sizes is likely to be a major topic of debate at the hearing.
Among those scheduled to testify is Ethan Lane, chairman of the National Horse and Burro Rangeland Management Coalition, which advocates for downsizing herds on public lands to sustainable levels.
Lane is also senior executive director of the Public Lands Council and of federal lands for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Both groups joined the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and others in devising a macabre plan submitted to congressional appropriators in April to reduce growing herd sizes without resorting to euthanasia or unrestricted sales (The Path Forward, 10 Years to AML proposal).
Nancy Perry, ASPCA's senior vice president of government affairs, is also scheduled to testify.
The hearing comes as federal land managers say there are at least 88,000 wild horses and burros roaming 27 million acres of herd management areas — more than three times the appropriate management level of 26,690 animals deemed sustainable for natural resources and the wildlife that live on the rangelands.
The 88,000 wild horses "is very, very far away from healthy herds," Hammond told the wild horse advisory board last week.
BLM has ramped up organized roundups of wild horses and burros, as well as efforts to get these animals adopted. But the bureau estimates that it costs about $50 million a year — close to 70% of the Wild Horse and Burro Program annual budget — to care for the animals held in off-range holding corrals and pens.
"We often forget about that number," Hammond said, referring to those costs.
"That's what's eating up a significant portion of the budget that Congress has given us just to take care of the [animals] we've taken off the range [in order] to have a healthy range that we don't have," he said. "So the challenges are significant."
Schedule: The hearing is Tuesday, July 16, at 2:30 p.m. in 366 Dirksen.
Source: E&E News
Coalition of U.S. House members pen letter to DOI Secretary Bernhardt opposing sterilization of wild horses
A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is striking back at the Bureau of Land Management's latest attempt to test a permanent sterilization technique on wild horses.
The group of 30 congressional leaders, including four Republicans, sent a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt late Friday urging him to "drop" BLM research into a controversial sterilization procedure — called ovariectomy via colpotomy — that involves removing the ovaries from mares. The latest proposal, which could begin as early as August, would involve about 100 mares already rounded up from a federal herd management area in central Oregon.
The lawmakers, led by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), also asked Bernhardt to "shed light" on why BLM is working "to push forward" with the proposed project after a federal judge last year issued an injunction halting the research. The bureau quickly abandoned the project and committed in February to adopt or sell most of the 845 wild horses it gathered up for the project.
But last month, BLM released a new environmental assessment (EA) analyzing the proposals to test the sterilization technique on mares at the Warm Springs Herd Management Area in Oregon. It marks at least the third time BLM has proposed such research, which has been challenged each time by litigation from advocacy groups.
"The BLM is charged with protecting wild horses under the landmark 1971 Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. From a welfare perspective, the 'spay' experiment raises serious concerns," the letter said. Among them are the "risks of infection, trauma, hemorrhage, evisceration, and even death," they wrote. BLM did not respond to a request for comment on this story before publication.
But according to the EA, the bureau wants to test the procedure "on at least 100 ungentled, wild horse mares" already rounded up last October as part of the previous attempt to research the sterilization technique. BLM would "contract with an experienced veterinary team" to conduct the "surgical procedure," it said.BLM would return about 28 to 34 of the sterilized mares to the range as part of the project. The U.S. Geological Survey would "evaluate the impacts of spaying" on these animals and on "herd behavior once returned to the range as compared with an untreated herd." Roughly 70 other mares would also be spayed and observed for seven days, then put up for adoption or sale and not returned to the range.
It's the latest effort by the bureau to find safe and effective ways to permanently sterilize mares as herd sizes grow rapidly across the West. But a federal judge blocked a similar proposal last year, and two years earlier BLM dropped a separate research proposal into several sterilization methods shortly after an advocacy group sued.
The congressional leaders led by Blumenauer wrote in the letter that they aren't convinced BLM will take proper precautions to care for the animals.
"It seems that the agency understands the risky nature of the procedure but is nevertheless aiming to quantify precisely how dangerous it is using federally-protected animals," they wrote. "This is especially disconcerting given the BLM's pronouncement that no post-operative antibiotics will be administered and that no veterinary interventions will be undertaken for any recovering horses returned to the range."
At the "absolute minimum," the letter said, if BLM conducts the tests it should include "veterinary and welfare oversight" similar to two previous proposals for sterilization research that included partnering with Oregon State University in 2016, and last year with Colorado State University.
Both universities dropped out before the research could begin, and the lawmakers noted with concern that such partnerships "are no longer a component of the project the BLM is attempting to yet again undertake."
coalition urges congress to reject the "path forward" 10 years to aml plan for wild horses and burros
Today, a broad coalition of stakeholders, organizations, and businesses sent a letter to the U.S. Congress in strong opposition to a dangerous and unworkable proposal that threatens our iconic American wild horses. The "Path Forward" 10 Years to AML proposal, a brainchild of The HSUS, ASPCA and Return to Freedom, working in concert with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and American Farm Bureau Federation, calls for the removal of at least 45,000 to 60,000 and potentially as many as 200,000 wild horses and burros from our federal lands over the next ten years, putting the horses at significant risk of slaughter and placing a burden on taxpayers for an outcome that is widely opposed by the public.
“This is terrible deal for wild horses. The unfunded 'plan' will put tens of thousands more wild horses in government holding, with their fate left to the whims of future appropriators,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director at the American Wild Horse Campaign. “Make no mistake: this could result in the eventual slaughter of tens of thousands of wild horses. The cattlemen’s lobby is the only winner, achieving the near extinction-level population of wild horses they have long sought."
“This ill-considered plan would remove tens of thousands of our iconic American wild horses from the range at a billion-dollar price-tag to the taxpayer over a decade,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action. “The biggest beneficiary of this plan would not be horses, but the livestock industry, which will see the federal government remove wild horses so that more cattle can graze on our public lands.”
"In its current form, this plan would be disastrous for our wild herds,” said Ginger Kathrens, founder and executive director of The Cloud Foundation. “It provides for no meaningful accountability on the part of BLM to implement humane and reversible fertility control measures. This plan gives BLM the mandate it has always wanted to round up more than 50,000 of our wild horses, doubling the number in off-range holding at enormous cost to the American taxpayer. We fear that unless funds are allocated to support those horses in holding for the rest of their natural lives, we will eventually see them sold killed in slaughterhouses. Meanwhile, our wild herds will be even more decimated, suffering deterioration in health due to poor genetic variability. Bottom line, wild horses and burros will eventually disappear from the West altogether. We suspect this is exactly what some of the stakeholders presenting this plan want."
Rounding up horses and burros is a highly stressful and dangerous experience for these animals. Injuries and deaths are not uncommon, and many horses will be separated from their families. The plan places wild horses and burros at significant risk of slaughter. The proposal significantly increases the number of captive horses at federally run and financed facilities and will create a future fiscal crisis. If history repeats itself, this increase will provoke pro-slaughter lawmakers to call for mass slaughter and euthanasia as a matter of fiscal responsibility.
As a humane and responsible alternative, stakeholders are instead calling for a step up in BLM-conducted fertility control programs, which allows horses to be managed humanely on the range. Proposed by U.S. Reps. Dina Titus (D-NV) and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), fertility control will eliminate the need for mass roundups and removals and spare taxpayers the need to finance long-term care, feeding, and leasing of land.
Nearly 50 signors, including wild horse advocacy organizations, horse rescues, animal protection organizations, and horse-related businesses across the nation have banded together to defeat this egregious measure, urging legislators to reject the dangerous proposal:
GOP Senators, Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, both of Utah, want to strike a regulation barring federal rangeland officials from euthanizing wild horses and burros.
Lee and Romney co-signed a letter to the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies under the Committee on Appropriations. GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska chairs the subcommittee while Democratic Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico serves as the ranking member.
“Western rangelands are in crisis. The current populations of wild horses and burros is devastating the land, negatively impacting other species living in the area, and prohibiting an effective multiple-use management of the land,” Lee and Romney wrote in a letter dated May 3, obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forestry Service (USFS), two agencies under the Interior department, are tasked with managing increasingly overpopulated wild horses and burros on federal land. Horse and burro populations are roughly triple what experts say the land can support.
“Removing this rider would greatly serve the health of both these animals and the rangeland,” Lee and Romney wrote. “Left unaddressed, the problem will only get worse, to the detriment of the environment and at the expense of the American taxpayer.”
The Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 directs BLM and USFS personnel to “remove excess animals from the range so as to achieve appropriate management levels.” The BLM and USFS typically put animals up for adoption or inject them with contraception drugs to control the population. Neither strategy has proven effective at blunting the growing overpopulation.
The federal agencies routinely round up hundreds of horses and burros to stick in federal corrals or place them with private ranches that are paid to care for the animals. The strategy has removed many animals from the land, but at an immense cost to taxpayers. The BLM spent $48 million, nearly 60 percent of its budget, on maintaining holding facilities in 2017.
Source: The Daily Caller
A bipartisan group of lawmakers pressured the Agriculture Department today over concerns that the Forest Service could sell dozens of wild horses it's holding at California's Modoc National Forest without first ensuring the purchased animals don't end up in foreign slaughterhouses. Congress has placed restrictions on what the Interior Department and its sub-agencies can do with the West's surplus of wild horses, but not USDA. Now, a group of 64 members of Congress is concerned that the Forest Service could begin the sale of as many as 165 wild horses without restrictions as early as this month.
"We are deeply troubled by this proposal as it represents a severe abdication of the government's responsibility to manage these federally-protected horses humanely," they wrote in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen today.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) organized the letter-writing campaign. Lawmakers signing the letter include House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Paul Cook (R-Calif.), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.). "The Forest Service's proposal would put wild horses at risk of being killed for food, and goes against California's existing law prohibiting the sale or transfer of horses for human consumption," the letter says.
It's not clear if the Forest Service intends to sell any of the wild horses rounded up and removed from the national forest last fall. A spokeswoman could not be reached for comment. About 250 horses that were rounded up last fall were transferred to newly built corrals — called the Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals — on the Modoc site. The Forest Service has said it is considering selling horses that it can't adopt out, and doing so without restrictions on what the buyer is allowed to do with the horses.
These plans were revealed in court filings by Justice Department attorneys defending the Forest Service against a federal lawsuit by advocacy groups challenging last fall's roundup of wild horses and burros.DOJ attorneys argued in one filing, dated Dec. 20, 2018, that the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 "expressly allows" the agency to sell unadopted animals without limitation.
For all practical purposes, that means "the purchaser does not have to certify the uses of the horses," according to the motion opposing a request by animal rights groups that the court issue an injunction against the sale of any of the rounded-up horses. A hearing on that preliminary injunction request before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California is set for this week.
DOJ says in the motion that the Forest Service "would not knowingly sell a horse that goes to slaughter for human consumption." But if the horses cannot be adopted, it says, the service may have to resort to the sale without restrictions. Congress for years has added provisions to Interior Department appropriations bills that forbid the Bureau of Land Management from using euthanasia on healthy horses and burros, and limit its ability to sell animals without restrictions on their future use. But the appropriations language covers only Interior, and thus BLM; the Forest Service operates under the Department of Agriculture.Regardless, the letter signed by the 64 lawmakers says that the appropriations language makes the intent of Congress "abundantly clear."
"To our knowledge, the Forest Service has never attempted to sell wild horses under its authority without restrictions on slaughter," the letter says. "Rather, the agency has abided by the Interior appropriations language and Congress's clear position regarding the humane and appropriate management of federally-protected wild horses."
Source: E&E News by Scott Streater
If passed into federal law, The Safeguard American Food Exports Act would make it illegal to slaughter America's wild and domestic horses on U.S. soil or abroad. CLICK HERE to take action!
Divisions over federal policy on wild horses and burros have come into sharp focus in the last two weeks after the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) announced a collaboration with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Return To Freedom, and pro-horse slaughter groups such as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the American Farm Bureau Federation to convince the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to add $50 million to the Bureau of Land Management’s budget for management of the equids.
Specifically, the groups have called for the roundup of 15,000 – 20,000 horses and burros annually for as many as ten years, and for placement of these horses in government-funded holding facilities, perhaps in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Utah (on top of the 50,000 horses already in holding facilities).
They’ve called for a step-up of “growth suppression programs,” specifically targeting the individual horses and burros remaining after gathers in order to make sterilization or fertility control more practical.
Every reputable animal protection group – including all animal groups on both sides of this debate – opposes the slaughter of wild horses, and also pushed for federal legislation to stop the slaughter of any domesticated or wild horses or burros. And I have no doubt that the program staffers at the HSUS and the ASPCA advocating for this plan have a deep concern for horses and burros. They deserve our respect for their passion for animals. In this case, however, I think they’ve made the wrong judgment and negotiated a bad deal that puts horses and burros at risk. And the absence of a perfect plan in the alternative doesn’t make their plan any more acceptable
The best and most rationale step forward is to use this year’s appropriations cycle to require BLM expand its contraception programs and fund that expansion. If BLM demonstrates an ability to apply the fertility control strategy in a far larger number of Herd Management Areas, then it’s time to talk about a broader plan for managing horses and burros given the presence of a more trusted and reliable government agency.
Oppose The Path Forward, 10 Years to AML plan
For now, though, the wild horse and burro community is right to balk at a plan to gather and remove 45,000 – 60,000 wild horses and burros in the next three years. Advocates should speak up and call their federal lawmakers (202-225-3121), urging them to oppose this dangerous plan and focus funding on the contraception as the centerpiece of any future, more comprehensive management plan.
Source: Drovers, by Wayne Pacelle
Legislation authored by California State Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) to protect California’s wild and domestic horses from slaughter is successfully moving forward.
Assembly Bill 128 received the approval of the Assembly’s Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee by a vote of 10 to 1, and now advances to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
“Californians have made it clear that they oppose the slaughter of horses yet horses are still being targeted for slaughter for human consumption. It is wrong and not how these animals should be treated,” said Assemblymember Gloria. “I am pleased this bill is moving forward and we are one step closer to strengthening our laws aimed at protecting California’s wild and domestic horses from slaughter.”
AB 128 protects wild and domestic horses from slaughter by:
In October, Assemblymember Gloria and 22 of his colleagues joined U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein to oppose the federal government’s inhumane acts. CLICK HERE to read full letter.
AB 128 is expected to be considered by the Assembly Appropriations Committee in the coming weeks.