WASHINGTON, D.C. — A surge in funding — $21 million of additional taxpayer dollars for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro Management Program — will be used for the removal of 20,000-30,000 wild horses and burros from federal lands this year and each year for many years to come, and the painful mass surgical sterilization of thousands of wild mares, according to a report issued to Congress this week by the BLM.
The funding — and the consequent use of the money for roundups and surgical sterilization rather than humane fertility control such as the PZP vaccine — is the direct result of a backroom deal cut between the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Humane Society Legislative Fund, ASPCA, American Mustang Foundation, Return to Freedom, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and other western ranching interests.
The report, which BLM was required to provide to Congress for a 60-day review prior to utilizing any new funding, outlines a plan to cull wild horse and burro populations by 70 percent through inhumane helicopter roundups, brutal surgical sterilization procedures, and doubling the number of captured wild horses warehoused in holding pens at a staggering cost to American taxpayers. Under the plan, 20,000-30,000 horses would be rounded up yearly for up to 18 years. BLM estimates a cost of $65.5 million in FY 2020, rising to $360 million yearly.
“The Humane Society and ASPCA devised a reckless plot to put the fate of our iconic American wild horses and burros in the hands of BLM leaders intent on mass roundups and draconian surgical sterilization,” said Marty Irby, a lifelong horseman and executive director at Animal Wellness Action. “Now, with BLM’s report to Congress, we see the gory details: a plan to depopulate wild horses and burros setting up a longer-term play to allow their mass slaughter. These animal lobbying groups have sentenced our mustangs to a lengthy round of hellish treatment, and Congress should not waste one more taxpayer dollar on this scheme.”
“By prioritizing the failed approach of mass roundup and warehousing of tens of thousands of wild horses in holding facilities, the agency is setting the stage for the ultimate slaughter of these American icons,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign. “Congress must put the brakes on this fiscally irresponsible, scientifically and morally bankrupt plan by requiring BLM to prioritize humane fertility control and prohibit surgical sterilization in accordance with scientific recommendations and in the interest of American taxpayers, who overwhelmingly support the protection of wild horses and burros on our Western public lands.”
The $21 million increase to the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program’s $81-million-a-year budget was part of the final omnibus FY 2020 spending package that was signed into law in December of last year. Appropriators ignored requests by U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, (D-AZ), chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, and 11 of his House colleagues, to restrict funding to prioritize humane population management with scientifically recommended fertility control.
Rep. Grijalva and other members of both the House and Senate have again requested appropriations language for FY 2021 requiring BLM to spend 10 percent of its budget on humane fertility control and prohibiting the use of barbaric surgical sterilization of wild horses on the range.
The American Wild Horse Campaign just completed the first year of a highly successful PZP fertility control program in Nevada’s Virginia Range, showing that PZP is more humane and cost-effective than removals.
AWHC estimates that 690 births were prevented at a cost of $182,000. In stark contrast, BLM would spend $690,000 to round up those same horses and an astronomical $34.5 million to maintain them in holding facilities for life, resulting in a net cost to taxpayers of $35 million in a single herd area.
Polling released in October shows a strong bipartisan majority and nearly three out of four Americans, oppose the new plan to round up mass numbers of federally protected wild horses and burros from America’s Western public lands.