“Unfortunately, Congress has impeded the ability of the BLM to do its job by continuing to deny funding for common sense and ecologically-sound management principles. As a result, wild horse and burro populations have been allowed to go unchecked, resulting in negative environmental impacts and forcing wildlife and livestock off public lands.”

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On November 9, Kenny Graner, Chairman of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, issued a letter to Senate leaders supporting recently-released recommendations from the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory board. The recommendations focus on creating sustainable management practices for those wild horses and burros under Bureau of Land Management (BLM) jurisdiction, and encourage healthy, viable herds of appropriate size. Although some of the recommendations are deemed controversial by so-called ‘horse advocate’ groups, the Advisory Board worked to ensure that its recommendations honor existing provisions within the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.  Calling upon Congress to act with haste in addressing the wild horse crisis, the text of the letter reads:

Dear Chairman Murkowski, Ranking Member Udall and Members of the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Committee on Appropriations of the United States Senate:

The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) requests immediate Congressional action to allow the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to fulfill their duties as outlined in the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.

The Act requires the BLM to “maintain a thriving ecological balance” on public rangelands. Through the Act, multiple management options of excess horses and burros are available, including: adoption, sale, sterilization and humane euthanasia. Unfortunately, Congress has impeded the ability of the BLM to do its job by continuing to deny funding for common sense and ecologically-sound management principles. As a result, wild horse and burro populations have been allowed to go unchecked, resulting in negative environmental impacts and forcing wildlife and livestock off public lands. Producers with valid grazing permits are being forced off the land as a result of inaction by our federal land management agencies. The ecological balance sought by the Act has been abandoned through inaction and Congress must act to provide a healthy landscape for wildlife and all of its users.

The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, composed of representatives from multiple interest groups, works with the BLM to address issues facing horse and burro populations. In a recent meeting, the Advisory Board reaffirmed their 2016 recommendation to follow the stipulations of the 1971 Act and offer unadoptable animals for sale without limitation or humane euthanasia.

BLM is currently spending $50 million per year to keep excess horses in holding facilities and needs an additional $50 million or more to house the excess horses still on the range. Therefore, the Board proposed that BLM phase out long-term holding facilities over the next 3 years and apply that budget to on-range management and adoptions; immediately remove excess animals from the range to achieve appropriate management levels (AML); and adjust AML where appropriate.

Given these recommendations, the Advisory Board and stakeholders have indicated the severity of the impacts caused by an overpopulation of horses and burros on our public rangelands. Healthy rangelands provide the basis for native plants and wildlife to flourish, local economies to thrive, horses and burros to live healthy lives, livestock to continue grazing, and water quality to be sustained. It all starts with healthy rangelands.

The FY18 House Appropriations Bill includes an amendment which gives the BLM the authority to follow the original intent of the 1971 Act and euthanize or sell unadoptable animals. This will open holding facilities for the purpose of removing more excess animals off the range – repeating this process until AML is reached on the range.

On behalf of USCA, we respectfully request your support in appropriating funds for the unrestricted sale or humane euthanasia of animals that have been unsuccessfully offered for adoption more than three separate times.

Unmanaged wild horse populations have created ecological harm and overwhelming budget issues. Congress must act.

Sincerely,

Kenny Graner
President
U.S. Cattlemen’s Association

Related:

BLM advisory board urges bold actions for addressing wild horse crises

Wild Horses in Crisis: Photos from the Rangeland

Video: Wild horses suffer and starve without effective management

Water Wars: Feral horses and wildlife vie for scant range water resources


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