Horse News

White House to Congress: Cut limits on herd controls

Scott Streater, E&E News reporter

“that appropriations language restricting BLM from using all of the management options authorized in the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 be eliminated…”

photo by Carol Walker of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

President Trump is once again asking Congress to remove restrictions forbidding the Bureau of Land Management from using “the full suite of tools” to manage growing wild horse and burro herds.

That presumably includes the use of euthanasia in specific instances when horses are too old or sick or cannot be adopted or sold, according to BLM’s recently released budget justification document detailing BLM’s $1.2 billion fiscal 2020 budget request.

The budget justification does not specifically state that BLM wants to use euthanasia. Nor does it directly mention unrestricted sale of wild horses and burros.

But the stipulation in the document directly asks “that appropriations language restricting BLM from using all of the management options authorized in the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 be eliminated so that the full suite of tools originally authorized by Congress will be available to [BLM] to manage growing wild horse and burro herds.”

That section refers to specific language in appropriations bills covering the Interior Department that forbids BLM from using euthanasia on healthy horses and burros and limits its ability to sell animals without limitations on their future use. The provision on limiting sales of animals is designed to ensure horses are not sold to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada.

President Trump has included similar requests in the last two fiscal budget cycles; Congress, even with Republicans controlling the House and Senate the first two years of the Trump administration, has ignored the requests.

Indeed, the Interior-EPA fiscal 2019 funding package approved in February includes language forbidding “the destruction of healthy, unadopted, wild horses and burros in the care of the Bureau or its contractors” (Greenwire, Feb. 14).

The appropriations request comes as BLM struggles to manage more than 82,000 wild horses and burros across roughly 27 million acres of federal herd management areas — about 55,000 more animals than the appropriate management level, which is the maximum number of horses and burros that regulators believe the rangeland can handle without causing damage to vegetation, soil and other resources.

BLM, according to the budget justification, spends 61 percent of its Wild Horse and Burro Program budget paying to house and care for the nearly 50,000 animals it has rounded up from federal rangelands.

Meanwhile, the budget justification notes that Trump wants to cut BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program funding to $75.7 million, from $80.5 million in 2019 enacted levels.

BLM is making a concerted effort to increase adoptions.

The fiscal 2020 budget justification includes a $40,000 increase for BLM adoption programs. That includes a new adoption incentive program in which the bureau is offering $1,000 to anyone who will adopt one of the thousands of wild horses and burros rounded up from federal rangelands (E&E News PM, March 12).

The bureau will also continue research into a permanent fertilization control measure, including “sterilization methods and the use of contraceptives and the spaying and neutering of animals before returning them to the range,” according to the budget justification.

BLM has abandoned such efforts after legal challenges from wild horse and animal rights groups.

“The BLM will continue working with the scientific community to better refine its population growth suppression methods and overall herd management techniques, as well as pursuing adoptions and sales, including incentivizing adoptions, and seeking permanent authority to transfer animals to local, State, and other Federal agencies for use as work animals,” it says.

7 replies »

  1. Not a big surprise considering this administration’s war against wildlife, its habitat and the entire environment!


  2. From PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility)

    Agency Stops Posting Performance Data and Hides Basic Programmatic Information
    Posted on Mar 21, 2019

    One of the federal government’s biggest programs acreage-wise now occupies the tiniest slice of cyberspace, according to a review by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) website has demoted commercial livestock grazing from a program to a sub-program, sharing equal billing with “reindeer grazing in Alaska.”
    BLM manages commercial livestock grazing across 150 million acres in 13 Western states – a total land area nearly the size of Texas. Last year, the agency even handed out “Vision Cards” for employees to wear displaying an oil derrick on one side and cattle on the other.
    Yet, on the BLM home page, as a result of changes that likely took place sometime between March and October of 2017, grazing is no longer found in the menu for “Programs.” The user must click on the Natural Resources program to see a sub-link for “Rangelands and Grazing.” On this page are two tabs for “grazing” and “success stories.” The former contains two links, one for “Find information about livestock grazing permits, fees, and improvements” and one for “learn about reindeer grazing in Alaska.”


  3. The AML is constantly parroted as though it is the gold standard not being met, when its definition must more accurately be interpreted as ARBITRARY MANAGEMENT LEVEL. The BLM has fixed on the ESTIMATED numbers of wild horses/burros thought to be roaming the western U.S. in 1971 though nobody had any accurate inventory (which the law required to be established and updated).

    In short, there is no biological basis for the vaunted “27,000” maximum carrying capacity on federal lands, though any number higher than this estimate is wrongly couched in crisis terms. Historical records from various sources describe “millions” of wild horses running free, and some claim they were more numerous than the pre-extermination executions of bison. Bison, by the way, have less claim to nativity in the U.S. than any horse does, though bison are now our national and beloved mammal.

    Note also from the above article the BLM is the overseer of around 27 MILLION acres of remaining legal homelands for wild horses and burros. At their literally “targeted” AML this equates to 1,000 acres PER WILD HORSE OR BURRO.

    Our wild horses suffer from so many other private interests, but also from their relative few numbers and the sad truth that even in a costly overreaching “management” model, the dollars are an absolutely minuscule amount compared to the overall federal budget. I doubt Pres. Trump has ever seen or given a damn about wild horses, he seems to be proudly anti any animal. Clearly any budget language didn’t derive from him but those invested in a lethal outcome that opposes the greater public interest.

    Our government will never give a damn about our wild horses and burros unless enough of the public demand it. So far, not so good.


  4. From PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility)

    Former Executive Had Hand in Lifting GMO and Pesticide Bans in Refuges
    Posted on Apr 01, 2019

    A former Monsanto executive serving as a political appointee within the U.S. Department of the Interior used her position to further the agrochemical giant’s agenda promoting the use of bee-harming pesticides, known as neonicotinoids, and genetically modified crops (GMOs), according to filings posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Last August, at the urging of industry, the agency rescinded its ban on the use of neonicotinoid insecticides and GMOs within all National Wildlife Refuges.

    Weeks later, President Trump announced he was going to nominate Aurelia Skipwith, a former official of the agrochemical company Monsanto, to run the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the nation’s leading wildlife conservation agency, which manages the National Wildlife Refuge System. For two years she has worked as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Prior to that, she worked in research for six years at Monsanto (now part of Bayer) on new GMO and biotech products. Other jobs in her short career also entailed promoting agrochemical products.

    FWS has not had a confirmed Director since Trump took office. Nevertheless, the de facto FWS leader who reported to Ms. Skipwith ordered the ban lifted. The FWS’s 2015 ban was rooted in the biological risks to pollinators and other wildlife on refuges from use of those agrochemical/biotech products. Nearly 60 refuges have agricultural programs, growing various crops as forage for birds and other wildlife.

    Documents obtained by PEER under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) indicate that Ms. Skipwith was actively engaged during 2017-2018 in the FWS decision to reverse the neonicotinoids and GMOs ban. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), an industry-funded think tank that led the effort on the ban rescission, saw the issue as falling “within Dep. Assistant Secretary Skipwith’s portfolio and stewardship.”


    From AWHC

    This is the most important week in our campaign to save the famed wild horses of Onaqui in Utah.
    We’ve got a lot going on – and we need your support. Whether it’s on the ground in Utah or from afar, every action you can take this week will make a difference.

    • Friday is our rally at the BLM office in Salt Lake City, UT. Please join us as we protest the round-up of 80% of one of the most famous wild horse herds in America, and tell the BLM that their plan of action is unacceptable.

    • Our petition to save the Onaqui herd has gathered almost 97,000 signatures, and counting! Help us hit 100k! Please share with your networks, as we need as many signatures as possible!

    • Also on Friday, we’ll be holding a Digital Sit-in to #SaveOnaqui. Support the movement by sharing on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with the #SaveOnaqui hashtag. More on this later.

    A majority of Americans oppose rounding up wild horses and using taxpayer money to put them in holding pens for life. And while the BLM has come after so many of America’s wild herds, the Onaqui wild horses hold a special place in our nation’s hearts.
    As one of the most viewed wild horse herds, they not only offer a unique opportunity for people to witness the magic of horses roaming free in the wild, they also contribute to the local community by bringing in thousands of tourists every year.

    Beauty on the Onaqui


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