Wild horses present a multilayered, multicomponent, picture. As wild horse advocates having at least a thumbnail of some of these moving parts can help you understand both the larger picture and how each individual component acts as either a mechanism to move the larger agenda or simply stands as a result.
This series of articles will address multiple facets of discussions of public interest; Appropriations, BLM Report to Congress, public lands, wild horse roundups and management.
Issue Thumbnail; Appropriations (Updates will appear in bolded text as this process moves forward)
As debate on Appropriations 2019 (and the release of funding for 2018) moves forward those conversations will once again overshadow many of the other moving parts. The other “moving parts” will have their own article.
In a nutshell: Introduction of language in the DOI spending bill on May 14th maintains the prohibitions against the sale to slaughter of wild horses. However, please read the rest of this article. Markups are this week and it could change; we have been told there will be deeper discussion before changes. However this Congress has demonstrated it behaves like no other in recent memory. We will update after hearing.
Update 5/15: Hearing ended in House subcommittee. Bill out of subcommittee without change and into full committee. We will update you as the bill moves forward with the language that prohibits funding for sales to slaughter of wild horses. Please read article for information on this process.
Update 5/21: A hearing was scheduled (now postponed) in the full committee (the above is the subcommittee) to determine how the bill will move forward. We will update after hearing. Will update when rescheduled. https://appropriations.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=395302
Update 6/12: The House committee added a ryder that would allow herds to be managed through spaying and castration (currently illegal and would require that language in an amendment that could be achieved through a spending bill). The Senate subcommittee had a hearing today. At this juncture we see no language in the Senate to spay wild horses in field. At this point it appears that the battle between House and Senate bills will be about spaying just as last year was about shooting wild horses. We will update you when we can. (More HERE: https://wildhorseeducation.org/2018/06/11/wildhorses-update-06-11-18/)
The federal funding bills (Appropriations) run through the same processes as any law; they are bills, that when passed, created the lawful use of funding. So remember these bills go into subcommittee, committee, each house (House, Senate) and if disagreement, can run back into committee. Only when signed by the President do they become law. So if you see “Victory!” check to see if a committee or “House or Senate” is listed after that word before you believe the entire conversation has ended; it will save you some confusion and frustration.
This is a yearly battle as the stop gaps to slaughter of domestic horses, and the sale into slaughter for wild horses, are simply built into Appropriations. In other words, no underlying law prevents these two things from happening and we simply “defund” the provisions of law that would allow it. Yes, that takes a lot of time and energy to address Appropriations every year.
Example: Bills that would stop domestic horse slaughter, as an example the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE), have sat in committee every year and not made those “floor votes” or even come near being signed in the Oval Office. These bills do not have a legal requirement to “go for a floor vote” each year like Appropriations does (if Appropriations did not make a vote the government shuts down, nothing gets funded). If SAFE made a floor vote it would prohibit the slaughter, and export for slaughter, of American horses (wild horses, too) as an unsafe food product. Please take note: domestic horse slaughter (defunding horse meat inspection) is not in the DOI budget, it’s USDA. (House USDA introduced fy2019 HOUSE(INTRO_AG)2019)
We made a booklet used on our webinars last year. Participants in the webinar all felt that it should be made available to the public. This booklet (click image to go to digital version) explains how a bill becomes law, what the focal issues are, and how you can engage. The booklet was made in 2017, but we are in the exact same loop again and the info is just as relevant. (Instead of retyping it all, we are linking to the e-booklet)
The debate on Appropriations for fiscal year 2019 (that year begins in October 2018, not a calendar year that begins in January) overlapped the end of the insanity of passing a final budget for federal spending in fiscal 2018 (that is supposed to fund the government starting in October 2017) that only ended last month.
Since April of 2017 WHE’s engagement on Appropriations has been a bit like riding a “tilt-a-whirl” at a fair. We have tried to keep you as informed as possible without adding to your confusion.
On April 27 BLM released their “report” to Congress. You can read our summary, introduction, to our response report here: https://wildhorseeducation.org/2018/04/27/blm-report-to-congress/
Since the release of BLM’s report we have actively engaged both Congress and oversight. Our report currently stands at 228 pages and multiple sections are being expanded (or require further clarification) after numerous requests from multiple entities including Congressional aides. We have even added a glossary. We are still responding to requests, and the document in numerous drafts, has been circulated into “conversation.”
On May 14 a House version of a bill has been introduced for fiscal 2019. The first “mark-up” hearing in the House is scheduled today. House(PRE)2019
If you watch the hearings online you will hear multiple subjects in the Department Of Interior (DOI) bill discussed. You will hear budgets for the multiple agencies that exist under the DOI. Listening to these hearing gives you an idea of “land management” as it is structured in the US under one Department; the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) also is in the “land management” business; United States Forest Service (USFS) is also under the legal mandates of the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WFRH&B Act) and has it’s own budget. (United States Fish and Wildlife is managed by the DOI, but is not required to fulfill legal obligations of the WFRH&B Act).
Often simple issues of jurisdictions (tribal, state, DOI and USDA) can cause a wave of chaos through a lack of comprehension. When USFWS was zeroing out the horses and burros from Sheldon, as an example, the vast majority of letters from the public were sent to BLM (and many orgs sent out press releases blaming BLM). Please check your sources, even if they appear credible. If you find consistent errors it might be a good idea to stop forwarding that source.
At this juncture, introduction, the status quo (not selling wild horses to slaughter or shooting tens of thousands) is maintained.
There is agreement that too many discrepancies, inconsistencies and lack of substantive data exist. A closer look must happen before any undoable changes in operations occur, such as shooting wild horses. We are working on deeper legislative issues. There is a lot going on with public lands, more articles soon.
BLM Report to Congress, public lands, wild horse roundups and management will have “thumbnail” articles coming soon.
To support our field work, document preparation and distribution, engagement with Congress and Oversight and litigation when needed click below.
note for our readers: Tomorrow the Senate subcommittee will have a hearing at 6:30 am pacific time to discuss changes in Appropriations for 2019 focusing on the Environmental Protection Agency (many of our readers are very interested in this): https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/hearings/hearing-to-review-the-fy2019-budget-request-for-the-environmental-protection-agency