Congress tells BLM: Fewer roundups, more humane fertility control

American Wild Horse Conservation reports this week Congress took decisive action to prioritize humane wild horse and burro management practices over controversial helicopter roundups. President Joe Biden signed into law a $460 billion package of Fiscal Year 24 spending bills Saturday, March 9, narrowly averting a government shutdown.

A helicopter chases these wild horses into a BLM catch pen.

Among the provisions was a significant spending cut for the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program budget, emphasizing the need for a shift towards humane and sustainable in-the-wild conservation strategies.

The bill allocates $141.9 million for the BLM program, marking a $5.9 million reduction from last year’s budget. Notably, the legislation preserves $11 million in funding specifically designated for the implementation of a robust, humane fertility control program, as advocated by both House and Senate versions of the bill.

These wild horses wait to be transported to a BLM facility.

“This legislation represents a pivotal moment in wild horse and burro management,” said Suzanne Roy, Executive Director of American Wild Horse Conservation. “By cutting overall program funding while preserving resources for humane fertility control, Congress is signaling a shift towards more sustainable, in-the-wild conservation practices.”

For the first time, Congress has directed the BLM to explore alternatives to helicopter roundups, acknowledging growing public opposition to this method as both inhumane and ineffective.

Roy continued, “With more than 60,0000 wild horses and burros currently confined in holding facilities and thousands more slated for removal, it’s clear that the status quo is untenable. Public sentiment strongly favors humane conservation efforts, as evidenced by the overwhelming support for Congresswoman Dina Titus’ bill to prohibit helicopter roundups.”

Wild horses at the Litchfield Corral. File photo

As of March 1, National Horse Protection Day, over 23,000 letters have been sent to Congress in support of legislation aimed at ending helicopter roundups. Public opinion polls consistently show that more than 80 percent of Americans advocate for the protection and humane management of federally protected wild horses and burros on western public lands.

The bill signed by President Biden includes several key provisions advocated by AWHC and supported by bipartisan groups of lawmakers:

  • Prohibition on selling horses and burros for slaughter.
  • Prohibition on euthanizing healthy and unadopted wild horses and burros.
  • Increased utilization of fertility control methods, with $11 million allocated for implementation.
  • Establishment of measurable objectives for reducing population growth through fertility control.
  • Continued support for adoptions and other program aspects, while strengthening safeguards to prevent abuse.
  • Language urging the BLM to explore alternatives to helicopters and manned fixed-wing aircraft usage.

“This legislation reflects a critical step towards ensuring the welfare and conservation of America’s wild horses and burros,” Roy concluded. “We commend Congress for its commitment to humane management practices and look forward to continued collaboration to safeguard these iconic symbols of the American West.”

About American Wild Horse Conservation
American Wild Horse Conservation is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting America’s wild horses and burros through advocacy, education, and conservation initiatives. AWHC works tirelessly to promote humane management practices and ensure the welfare of these iconic animals for generations to come.