77 members of Congress call for humane wild horse management

Yesterday, American Wild Horse Conservation commends Representatives Dina Titus, Juan Ciscomani, Steve Cohen, and David Schweikert for leading a bipartisan effort calling for humane wild horse management in the Fiscal Year 2025 House appropriations legislation.

Wildlife photographer Norm Williams took this photo of a foal enjoying the flowers last week in Lassen County.

This effort, supported by nearly 80 representatives, signals a resolute call for change within the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program.

The letter, submitted to the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, requests language in FY25 appropriations legislation requiring the BLM to spend no less than 10 percent of the more than $140-million-dollar Wild Horse and Burro Program budget to implement the humane fertility control in at least five additional Herd Management Areas within 120 days of the bill’s passage.

The letter also calls for a $100,000 reduction in program funding for each day beyond the 120-day deadline that the BLM fails to commence field implementation of humane fertility control. This request seeks increased accountability to address the agency’s failure to comply with past Congressional directives prescribing an increase in the use of humane fertility control to manage wild horses and burros.

“The support by 77 representatives is a clear indication of Congress’ frustration with the BLM’s failure to reform its inhumane and unsustainable Wild Horse and Burro Program,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director of AWHC. “AWHC is grateful for the leadership of Representatives Titus, Cohen, Schweikert, and Ciscomani in advocating for in-the-wild conservation solutions to end the BLM’s reliance on cruel and costly helicopter roundups and mass removals of these federally protected animals from their homes on the range.”

“Despite the abundance of evidence supporting the use of fertility control, BLM persists in spending less than 1 percent of its Wild Horse and Burro Management budget on this humane alternative,” said Titus. “I appreciate my colleagues‘ support mandating that BLM dedicate a higher percent of its budget to proven and practical fertility treatment, ultimately keeping more horses on the range and protecting them from harmful roundups and holding facilities.”

“As a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, I’m pleased to request this language alongside 77 bipartisan House colleagues to advance efforts to reform the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program,” said Ciscomani. “This request reflects the widespread public interest in preserving America’s wild horses and burros through cost-effective, humane and scientific in-the-wild initiatives.”

“I am pleased that so many of my colleagues have joined in voicing concerns about BLM’s unsustainable management plan for the Wild Horse and Burro program,” said Cohen. “At the current rate of round-ups, BLM will spend around $1 billion over five years on holding pens. The entire program needs to be revisited, but the language proposed by this letter would be a good next step.”

“I continue to be proud to help lead the efforts for this important legislation to protect wild horses and reduce their exposure to dangerous roundups,” said Schweikert. “This language encourages humane and cost-effective alternatives to ensure wild horses and burros can continue to thrive in Arizona and other western states. I look forward to working with my colleagues on this important issue.”

Last month wildlife photographer Norm Williams snapped his herd of horses grazing right here in Lassen County.

The requested language would also: 

  • Prohibit the use of funds for ovariectomy procedures.
  • Direct studies considering humane alternatives to the use of helicopters and manned fixed-wing aircraft.
  • Stop cash incentive payments for adoptions.
  • Identify HMAs and Herd Areas that could be redesignated for relocating horses as an alternative to off-range holding.
  • Maintain the prohibition on the sale or adoption of healthy wild horses and burros that results in their destruction.

For the last two years, Congress has directed the BLM to spend up to $11 million on the implementation of humane fertility control programs. Yet, the agency actually reduced the number of fertility control treatments it implemented in Fiscal Year 2023 while continuing to round up wild horses and burros en masse and stockpiling them in federal holding facilities, where more than 64,000 wild horses and burros are now confined.

In FY24, the BLM plans to round up and remove more than 20,000 more wild equines, and administer fertility control to a mere 1,320 females – less than 5 percent of the estimated number of reproductive mares and jennies on the range.

Meanwhile, a peer-reviewed study published in the Vaccines this year affirms the feasibility and efficacy of fertility control programs on large wild horse populations in expansive habitats.

The study, based on four years of data from AWHC’s humane fertility control program in Nevada’s Virginia Range, concluded that “[t]his method of immunocontraception was associated with providing an effective, humane, publicly acceptable, and practical alternative to the previous reliance on lethal, logistically demanding, or inhumane control methods.”

The fertility control program – now the largest of its kind in the world – has gained international recognition, including presentations in the last year by AWHC and its academic partner, Dr. Martin Schulman of the University of Pretoria School of Veterinary Medicine, at the International Symposium on Equine Reproduction in Brazil and the World Veterinary Association Congress in South Africa.

About American Wild Horse Conservation
American Wild Horse Conservation is the nation’s leading nonprofit wild horse conservation organization, with more than 700,000 supporters and followers nationwide. AWHC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. In addition to advocating for the protection and preservation of America’s wild herds, AWHC implements the largest wild horse fertility control program in the world through a partnership with the State of Nevada for wild horses that live in the Virginia Range near Reno.