U.S. House Committee takes steps to improve federal management of wild horses

Did you know wild horses roam in Lassen County? Photos by Norm Williams

Today, the American Wild Horse Campaign commends the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations for advancing bipartisan language in its Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies funding bill and its accompanying report, which continues to call for protecting wild horses and burros from slaughter and key reforms to the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program.

The committee maintained language directing as much as $11 million of the agency’s budget toward immunocontraceptive fertility control. The measure also continues to call for partnerships with military veterans and wild horse organizations, and evaluating other on-range management options that would keep horses and burros out of BLM holding facilities.

The committee further included language urging the BLM to consider alternatives to the use of helicopters and manned fixed-wing aircraft, language that was championed by U.S. Representatives Dina Titus, David Schweikert, and Steve Cohen. This marks the first time that Congress has urged BLM to consider alternatives to helicopters. On the issue of removals, the committee also called for triaging rather than widespread removals and strict compliance with the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program.

Yesterday’s committee action is particularly timely as the federal government is conducting helicopter roundups in the Antelope Complex in Nevada. Twelve horses and foals have died, most suffering broken necks and legs during the first two weeks of the roundup operation. A stallion suffered a horrific broken leg after escaping from a trap. The injury was caught on video.

“We applaud House Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger and Interior Subcommittee Chair Mike Simpson for taking steps to make meaningful improvements to the wild horse and burro programs at the BLM and we look forward to continue working with Congress as the bill proceeds through the Senate and conference,” said Holly Gann Bice, director of government relations for AWHC. “The appropriate use of fertility control vaccines will stabilize horse populations and help end the ongoing cycle of removing and confining horses in overcrowded holding facilities. Fertility control vaccines are a key component of successful, humane, and fiscally responsible wild horse population management.”

And we’ve got wild burros in Lassen County as well.

Fertility control vaccine implementation was noted as a priority by the committee. 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 the field application of fertility control following last year’s appropriations language, which also called for dedicated funding for fertility control. AWHC looks forward to the continued expansion of the BLM’s fertility control program and is encouraged by the committee’s reiterated support for full staffing at the agency.

“We’re grateful to U.S. Representatives David Schweikert, Dina Titus, Juan Ciscomani, Mark Pocan, and Steve Cohen for their bipartisan work to protect wild horses and burros and championing effective, humane on-range management strategies to help keep horses and burros in the wild and stop wasteful government spending,” concluded Gann Bice.

AWHC appreciates the efforts of the committee and applauds the leadership of committee members Juan Ciscomani and Mark Pocan to strengthen language in the accompanying report to prevent it from inadvertently opening the door to permanent surgical sterilization, potentially including ovariectomy via colpotomy.

Ovariectomy is an expensive, cruel, and highly controversial surgery that has been widely opposed by veterinarians, animal welfare organizations, and bipartisan members of Congress. Ovariectomy involves the manual insertion of a metal rod to blindly locate and sever the ovaries of wild mares.

AWHC welcomes the opportunity to continue our work with the committee and Congress to further clarify and strengthen wild horse fertility control provisions in the final bill.

About the American Wild Horse Campaign
The American Wild Horse Campaign is the nation’s leading wild horse protection organization, with more than 700,000 supporters and followers nationwide. AWHC is dedicated to preserving American wild horses 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.