“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…”
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.