House approves funding bill with protections for America’s wild horses and burros

Today, the American Wild Horse Campaign commends the U.S. House of Representatives for advancing bipartisan language in the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2024 (H.R. 4821) and its accompanying report, which continues protections for wild horses and burros from slaughter, and includes other key reform directives for the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program.

The vote is welcomed by the AWHC, the nation’s leading wild horse and burro conservation organization.

The legislation passed the House this morning on a 213-203 vote. It includes language directing as much as $11 million of the agency’s budget toward immunocontraceptive fertility control.

District 1 Representative Doug LaMalfa, who represents Lassen County, voted aye.

The measure also continues to call for partnerships with military veterans and wild horse organizations and evaluating other on-range management options, such as relocation, that would keep horses and burros out of BLM holding facilities.

The House bill further includes language urging the BLM to consider alternatives to the use of helicopters and manned fixed-wing aircraft. This marks the first time that the Congress has urged BLM to consider alternatives to helicopters.

This action is timely as the Bureau of Land Management is currently conducting helicopter roundups, which aim to capture 8,826 wild horses and burros and permanently remove 8,214 by the end of Fiscal Year 2024. Several large roundups are underway in Nevada, including in the Roberts Mountain Complex where 11 horses have been killed to date, including a stallion who suffered a horrific broken legafter escaping from a trap and seven horses who died after a government-contracted semi-truck flipped on its side.

“We applaud the House of Representatives for taking steps to implement meaningful improvements to the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program and for emphasizing the need for cost-effective and humane management solutions,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director of the AWHC.

“The appropriate use of proven fertility control vaccines will help end the ongoing cycle of removing and confining horses in overcrowded holding facilities,” she said.

Fertility control vaccine implementation was noted as a priority by the House.

The BLM has historically spent less than 1 percent of its Wild Horse and Burro Program budget on fertility control. However, the agency has taken steps to expand field application of fertility control following last year’s appropriations language, which also called for dedicated funding for fertility control.

“We’re grateful for the leadership of Representatives Dina Titus, David Schweikert, Steve Cohen, Juan Ciscomani, and Mark Pocan for championing wild horse protection measures in this legislation,” concluded Roy.

Wild Horse and Burro Management portion of the report
The committee recommends $154.8 million to support implementation of the May 2020 plan and includes up to $11 million for the administration of and research on known and novel population growth suppression strategies, including immunocontraceptive vaccines and permanent sterilization efforts, prioritizing implementation of existing immunocontraceptive vaccines when appropriate.

The committee supports plans that utilize a multi-pronged management strategy that includes the use of fertility control, targeted removals from the most heavily ecologically impacted and populated areas, expanding off-range holding facilities and increasing the number of animals placed into private care. To better accomplish these goals, the Bureau should increase public/private partnerships, to include working with veterans and wild horse organizations. The Bureau must also ensure that all removals are conducted in strict compliance with the Bureau’s Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program. The strategy will not include any sale or actions that result in the destruction of healthy animals, which continues to be prohibited by this bill. The Bureau is encouraged to prioritize resources to ensure the program is at full staffing capacity.

The committee restates the need for the Wild Horse and Burro Task Force to be actively engaged with all relevant bureaus and agencies having subject matter expertise. The Bureau is directed to provide quarterly updates to the Committee on the allocation of resources, achievement of performance metrics, input from the Task Force, efficacy of identifying and relocating nonreproducing horses to different Herd Management Areas, and to discuss any proposed changes to the current course of action.

Within the amount provided for Wildlife Habitat Management, the Committee recommends $73 million for sage grouse conservation activities.

The funding level provided for Energy and Minerals supports a balanced, all-of-the-above strategy for energy development to facilitate domestic energy production, generate revenue, and to support American jobs in the energy sector.

Within the amount provided for Resource Protection and Maintenance, the recommendation includes $11 million in resource management planning for sage grouse conservation activities and $28.6 million for law enforcement.

The committee supports addressing hard rock mine reclamation and focuses on the synergy between the Bureau and the Energy Community Revitalization Program. The recommendation includes $16.5 million for remediation of abandoned mine land sites.

Within the amount provided for National Conservation Lands, the Committee recommends $14 million for National Scenic and Historic Trails for trail operations, construction, and maintenance projects.

About the American Wild Horse Campaign
The American Wild Horse Campaign is the nation’s leading 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.