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House Appropriation Committee approves BLM funding

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved fiscal year 2021 Interior appropriations legislation giving the Bureau of Land Management $102 million for its wild horse and burro program, according to a press release by the American Wild Horse Campaign, the nation’s leading wild horse protection organization.

According to the report delivered to Congress in May, the BLM said that it intended to use the funding to round up as many as 20,000 wild horses a year from Western public lands.

According to the American Wild Horse Campaign’s website, the report outlines a plan to cull wild horse and burro population by 70 percent through inhumane helicopter roundups, surgical sterilization procedures and doubling the number of captured wild horses warehoused in holding pens at a cost to American taxpayers.

“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 in a statement posted on the American Wild Horse Campaign’s website. “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.”

The bill carries over the 27 percent budget increase Congress awarded the BLM wild horse and burro program last year after the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, and Return to Freedom joined the cattle industry in lobbying for a mass wild horse roundup plan, according to the American Wild Horse Campaign’s website.

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 fiscal year 2020 spending package that was signed into law in December of last year, according to the website. 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 the BLM to spend ten percent of its budget on humane fertility control and prohibiting the use of surgical sterilization of wild horses on the range.

“The House Appropriations Committee missed an opportunity to say ‘whoa’ to the BLM’s rampant mismanagement and mistreatment of our nation’s wild horses and burros,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign. “Committee members just let down the American public and our iconic wild horses and burros by voting to hand over $100 million in taxpayer funds to the BLM to continue its unscientific, unsustainable and inhumane wild horse and burro roundup program.”

The groups said they support the committee’s decision to continue the ban on slaughter of wild horses and burros under the jurisdiction of the BLM and U.S. Forest Service, but vowed to continue to fight for reform of the BLM’s wild horse roundup program, which the National Academy of Sciences has called “expensive and unproductive for the BLM and the public it serves.”

The bill now heads to the full House for a vote. The Senate version of the bill is still pending.

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