Wild Horse Education

Biden Budget Buzz

Red Desert release after roundup and PZP treatment

There is a lot of buzz on the internet about the White House proposed budget for 2022. The budget is massive and increases funding for many programs and includes an across the board 2.7% pay raise for all federal civilian employees, far exceeding the traditional 1% salary increase. (you can see the full budget request here)

The request for the Department of Interior (that oversees the BLM) includes an additional $35 million for the Wild Horse and Burro Program (WHB program) (see Interior breakdown here).

The White House (WH) proposed budget sets the beginning of the Appropriations bill debate each year. After the WH sends the budget request to Congress, bills are crafted in the House and Senate. What the President asks for, is not (usually) what he gets. Remember, in 2018 the WH budget proposed essentially mass killing of wild horses. That part of the 2018 WH budget (introduced in 2017) did not make the final bill.

The lead in for the additional funding for the BLM WHB program states: The 2022 budget includes a $35.0 million increase in the Wild Horse and Burro Program to support the health and resilience of rangelands. Excess wild horse and burro populations undermine the health of public rangelands and supported species, making them less resilient to stressors from climate-driven changes. These degraded landscapes can also contribute to climate change, as they are more susceptible to wildfire occurrence, which exacerbates excess carbon. To help mitigate that problem, the request supports continued efforts to constrain the growth of animals on the range and to cover rising holding costs. BLM will also continue to emphasize non-lethal population management tools; transfers to other Federal, State, and local entities; and private placements. 

Release of wild horses at Owyhee after roundup and PZP treatment

Break it down

Many of our readers appear shocked by what they are reading. We aren’t.

This statement follows the big corporate lobby effort (now called Path Forward) that was incorporated into the BLM Report to Congress in 2020. This is a big money agenda that began in 2016 to gain more money for private placements, partnerships and fertility control substances (specifically PZP) and was originally called “Ten Years to AML” (you can download here).

The Adoption Incentive Program (subsidized adoption that has led to many young wild horses landing in kill pens) and the new grant applications for “partnerships”  all became part of that movement (along with changes to title transfers, getting to “AML,” etc.) .

Maintaining the grant program is part of the additional funding request. Additional fertility control (that still includes sterilization) is also part of that request along with the roundups to get to, or near, “AML” before application.

“Partnership grants” will (likely) include a few “pzp darting” proposals for a handful of high profile herds. They will also include the “hand it to the rancher” proposals BLM has been trying to slide in for years that allow the permittee to trap, train, treat and transport. We all have to wait and see what other types of programs this grant system creates (the deadline for application was May 28).

This “grant system” has also created many new opportunities to further undercut, obscure, play “favorites” and corrupt the original intentions of the law, with another financial incentive built in. Is this just more money into more pockets to placate? Or will this bring widespread positive changes for the horses with the money spent?  Transparency is a big problem that is likely to get worse. How long before you start to wonder what is actually happening at a trapping operation you are forbidden to observe?

Release at the Pine Nut HMA after capture and treatment with PZP

A public that stated outrage over the “Ten Years to AML” debacle may have inadvertently helped push this agenda that is apparent in the WH request.. Many people have called and begged legislators for more “PZP” as they say “Stop abuse at roundups and use pzp.”

PZP is not a method, it is a substance. The substance is primarily applied via jab stick as part of a roundup after the population levels are pushed close to (or to) the stated Appropriate Management Level (AML). PZP also does not stop abuse at roundups (abuse at roundups is a completely different point of law).

Asking first and foremost for “more fertility control” also solidifies that the main issue in the program is population suppression. Most members of Congress and the media are convinced the heart of any issue with wild horses and burros surrounds “we need more money to suppress population growth.”

This budget request is no surprise.

Reveille Release of wild horses back to the range after temporary fertility control (pzp).

Massive Removals

Yes, this budget request will continue large scale removals that circle us back in time again. Removal numbers will continue to mirror the numbers of the early 2010’s. These operations will slam down populations across the West and include fertility control treat and release.

Sterilization will amp up. The “Path Forward” lobby groups, incorporated into the 2020 Report, were only against “lethal methods” of population control. Spaying via colpotomy has been rejected by this administration, sterilization has not. The new form of sterilizing mares (in the new plans that have come out) include burning oviducts closed in mares.

Yes, we will see the continuation of massive roundups based on the needs of profit driven interests and not science based management planning. Unfortunately, reform of the BLM planning process seems to stop dead at the door of the Wild Horse and Burro program. The program is running “big money politics, as usual.”

This will mean we will need to fight site-by-site, EA-by-EA. We will also need to address committees as budgets are drafted.  A lot of work ahead.

Not Unexpected

When we have an industrial administration wild horses and burros get hit. When we have an “enviro” admin, they get scapegoated to sooth big money interests that may feel pressure from things like attempts to protect sage grouse.

Until we can get the public, media, Congress, etc. to understand that wild horses and burros are a public lands resource, and must be managed with the same level of planning and public participation, this cycle will keep repeating.

Not Over

Please remember that the release of the WH proposed budget is the kick off for the Appropriations debate. As Congressional sub-committees begin to draft the Appropriations bill there will be a lot of work you can do to influence how and where funding needs to go.

Yes, million dollar lobby groups are throwing around million dollar campaign propaganda and playing big politics. Greenwashing, a term most people are familiar with when it comes to oil and gas, is alive and well at all levels. Heck, we all just saw a release from the Audubon Society giving fuel to the “cattle are good for the land” junk science being pushed in the most arid states in the nation. Those arid states are where our wild horses and burros live on ranges bashed for over a century by domestic livestock. It appears Audubon is trying to “make friends” before the big Greater Sage Grouse protection planning talks begin again and livestock will be one of the greatest threats. That process will, again, represent a “blame the horse affront” and a replay of the old Sally Jewell tour. 

You can continue to take our action items here. There are currently 4 items on that page: SAFE, Hearing, Spending, Humane Handling. As the Appropriations debate rages on we will change the action items frequently.

Just be careful what you ask your legislators for, read every petition and click and send before signing your name to it. Often, the lead in to get you to sign is not included in what you actually send. Be careful out there.

Our outreach has been busy. WHE has a couple of key meetings on tap this summer. We will let you know more as things solidify.

Note: WHE feels that fertility control is a tool of management, it is not management. Therefore, the flaws in management do not begin with fertility control. The sheer lack of management planning is the root flaw in the program. Only after an HMAP is created that addresses AML, forage allocation, population distribution, genetics, what type of fertility control and the method of application, etc. will we begin to address on-range management from a science (reality) perspective. An HMAP is also the place the public has a say in management, not just population suppression through removals.


Learn More:

Fast guide to Appropriations 

Let’s Talk (BLM Report and the NAS)


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Categories: Wild Horse Education