Check out this press release from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources:
Rejecting the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) slaughter of otherwise healthy horses as a viable management tool, the House Natural Resources Committee today approved legislation introduced by Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-WV) that will ensure the continued protection of thousands of America’s free-roaming wild horses and burros that make their homes on America’s public lands.
“While Americans cheer on the thoroughbreds at Churchill Downs this Saturday, I would submit that the plight of the American mustang is not something of which we can be proud,” said Rahall. “While the BLM, the agency charged with their safekeeping, has publicly spoken of killing these majestic creatures as a solution to a burgeoning budgetary problem, I know that we can, and must, do better. This legislation would ensure a safe future for thousands of healthy wild mustangs.”
In 1971, the Congress adopted the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act – which stated that wild horses are “an integral part of the natural system of the public lands” – to protect wild horses from “capture, branding, harassment, or death.” Since then, the BLM, charged with management of the animals on public lands, has allowed for the general public to adopt wild horses that have been captured when their population becomes excessive.
Last summer, the BLM announced that the combined lack of funding, facilities, and future options may require the killing of as many as 30,000 healthy wild horses and burros. Shortly after, the GAO released the findings of its investigation, which revealed a host of troubling problems plaguing the BLM’s wild horse and burro program.
“Protection and management of the wild horses and burros on our public lands is an important federal responsibility – but it is clear that the federal government has not been adequately meeting that responsibility,” said Rahall. “This legislation will remedy many of the critical lapses that are taking place under the 1971 Act by invoking a number of commonsense measures, including preventing the BLM from resorting to slaughter as a solution for management.”
The Restoring Our American Mustangs (ROAM) Act (H.R. 1018), introduced by Rahall and co-sponsored by Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, would amend the landmark 1971 Act to implement changes suggested by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The bill would:
- Promote the use of better science to determine whether the amount of range that is available to wild horses is capable of sustaining them.
- Restore the amount of range available to wild horses when the law was first enacted in 1971, through a combination of public and private lands controlled by entities seeking to establish sanctuaries, and reduce the number of animals that are culled from the herds and placed in holding facilities.
- Provide the BLM with the authority to enter into cooperative agreements with private entities to establish wild horse sanctuaries on non-federal lands.
- Bolster the adoption program and implement sterilization and other fertility controls.
- Prohibit the killing of healthy wild horses and burros.
The Committee adopted an Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute offered by Grijalva that included technical and clarifying changes in response to input from the Administration and advocacy groups.
And they’re getting some pretty positive feedback from the animal world. Here’s a response from the Humane Society of the United States:
The Humane Society of the United States applauds the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee for passing the Restore our American Mustangs (ROAM) Act by a vote of 21-14 and calls for the quick passage of the bill by the full House of Representatives. The bill, H.R. 1018, introduced by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee Chairman Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., restores a long standing ban on the commercial sale and slaughter of America’s wild, free-roaming horses and burros and provides other sorely needed protections for our mustangs.
“Congressmen Rahall and Grijalva have worked tirelessly to correct the past mismanagement of wild horses on our public lands, and I thank the entire committee for sending this bill to the full House of Representatives,” said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of The HSUS. “American taxes should not support the inhumane round up and eventual slaughter of wild equines.”
In addition to preventing the commercial sale and slaughter of wild horses, H.R. 1018 prevents wholesale killing of healthy wild horses, prioritizes on-the-range management over roundups, and facilitates the creation of sanctuaries for wild horses and burros. Such management techniques should include immunocontraception, which can control populations and save tax dollars.
“It is unacceptable for wild horses to be slaughtered without any regard for the general health, well-being, and conservation of these iconic animals that embody the spirit of our American West,” said Chairman Rahall. “This legislation will ensure the continued presence of those wild horses that make their homes on public lands.”
H.R. 1018 removes outdated limits on areas where horses can roam freely, allowing the BLM to find additional, suitable acreage for these animals. Further, it strengthens the BLM’s wild horse and burro adoption program, requires consistency and accuracy in the management of wild horse and burro herds and allows more public involvement in management decisions. In order to allow for populations of wild horses on the range, ROAM facilitates the creation of sanctuaries for wild horse and burro populations on public lands.
Staff Writer Carrie Coppernoll