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
Republican Congressman Chris Stewart brought together ranchers, animal-protection advocates and others on Wednesday to brainstorm solutions for protecting wild horses.
Evocative symbols of the American West, wild horses have also become a thorny national political issue that's often left ranchers and animal-protection advocates at odds.
Congress budgeted more than $80 million for the wild horse program last year, but the U.S. Bureau of Land Management overspent that by more than $2 million. Stewart has introduced an amendment to a recently passed House spending bill that gives the BLM more authority and a $15 million funding increase for managing horse populations. The U.S. Senate also included provisions in its version of the Interior Department spending bill that address wild horses.
But the opposing sides agree money alone is not the answer.
"Everyone agrees the problem is untenable the way it is," said Stewart after the closed-door meeting ended Wednesday. "There's wide agreement—I would say 90 percent agreement—on what it's going to take to fix it.
That includes capturing and removing from public land about 90,000 horses so they won't compete with livestock and wildlife for food and water.
Stewart said the solution also means settling on an effective sterilization program that would allow the BLM to remove the ovaries of wild mares. Sterilization would prevent herds remaining on the range from growing fast. The target is to hold herd numbers steady at roughly 27,000 horses.
U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, brought together groups that are typically at odds for a discussion of solutions for the nation’s wild horse program.
Among the groups that attended were:
They asked Stewart to continue the talks.
Nancy Perry, a lobbyist for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the national program for wild horses is at a crossroads.
"That's causing everyone to come together, put aside our differences and ask, 'What can we do together on this issue?'" Perry, who also attended the roundtable, said.
Beaver County Commissioner Tammy Pearson, who is also a rancher, conceded that solving the wild horse problem will take collaboration and time.
"We've had years and years that we've been saying, and begging and pleading to get this done," said Pearson. "And the problems have been that BLM has been restricted in what they can do."
Stewart, who calls himself a horse lover, said no one wants to see the horses, the land and rural Utah communities suffering. In a previous version of his amendment, Stewart gave the BLM authority to euthanize healthy horses in government corrals. But that's no longer part of his proposal.
"This coalition will stay together because we truly love these animals," said Stewart, adding that some wild horses in southern Utah are starving to death. "Most people think that's not a great outcome for them."
ASPCA Commends Senate Appropriations Committee for Voting to Eliminate Funds for Inspection of U.S. Horse Slaughter Facilities
The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) commends the members of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee for approving an amendment to its fiscal year 2014 Agriculture Appropriations bill that would prevent the use of taxpayer dollars by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to inspect horse slaughter facilities. The Landrieu-Graham Amendment, introduced by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), was passed in the full committee by voice vote and, if it remains in the final bill, would effectively shut the door to the
gruesome horse slaughter industry on U.S. soil. A similar amendment was approved last week in the House, which was introduced by Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Bill Young (R-Fla.).
In the 2012 budget, language preventing horse slaughter inspections was not included, opening the door for a return of horse
slaughter in the U.S., despite broad opposition to the practice. Several applications to open horse slaughter facilities have already been filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including one in Roswell, N.M. and another in Sigourney, Iowa.
"Horse slaughter is a terrifying and inhumane practice that only benefits foreign interests," said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. "Using taxpayer dollars to fund this abhorrent industry is reckless and wasteful. We
are grateful to Senators Landrieu and Graham for their strong leadership in advocating to protect these revered animals."
Horse slaughter is inherently cruel and often erroneously compared to humane euthanasia. The methods used to slaughter horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths, as horses are difficult to stun and often remain conscious during their butchering
and dismemberment. Whether slaughter occurs in the U.S. or abroad, these equines suffer incredible abuse even before they arrive at the slaughterhouse, often transported for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water or rest, and in dangerously overcrowded trailers where the animals are often seriously injured or even killed in transit. The majority of horses killed for human consumption are young, healthy animals who could go on to lead productive lives with loving owners. Last year, more than 160,000 American horses were sent to a cruel death by a grisly foreign industry that produces unsafe food for consumers.
"We raise horses to work with us, carry us on their backs and be our companions—they have never been raised for slaughter and consumption. This ban not only prevents the inhumane slaughter of our horses and keeps toxic meat out of our food supply, it saves American taxpayer money. It would be fiscally irresponsible to require additional USDA inspections for a
product we know is unsafe and has no market in this country," said Sen. Landrieu. "Today's bipartisan vote to pass a ban on domestic horse slaughter shows once again that this is not a Democratic or a Republican issue— it is an issue that 80 percent of the American people agree on. Brutal slaughter is never the answer, and I will continue to push for this ban to be signed into law."
Sens. Landrieu and Graham are also the lead Senate sponsors of the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (S. 541/H.R. 1094)—bipartisan legislation that would end the current export of American horses for slaughter abroad, and protect the public from consuming toxic horse meat. The lead House sponsors on the bill are Reps. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) and Jan
In a recent national poll commissioned by the ASPCA, it was revealed that 80 percent of American voters, including the vast majority of horse owners (71 percent), are opposed to the slaughter of U.S. horses for human consumption.