The Office of Management and Budget released the annual Presidential proposed budget for the next fiscal year (FY). The budget debate for the coming federal FY budget (that begins in October) is beginning in earnest. The public can sometimes get confused by the use of a fiscal year (Oct-Sept) in lieu of a calendar year particularly after a year of “Continuing Resolutions” that fund the government in short spurts instead of passing a full budget before a fiscal year ends.
We wanted to give you a “heads up” that the debate for the FY-23 budget begins in earnest next week and a look at what to expect.
The proposed budget has been released (HERE) and we will do an in-depth look at spending for the wild horse and burro programs under Department of Interior (BLM) and the funding for Department of Agriculture (USFS). That review will take some time to craft and you will see conversations swirl through social media.
Update: What we see in a cursory review of the request opportunities to direct funding toward wild horses and burros through drought provisions and climate change. The need for in-depth management planning (HMAPs) is more evident than ever in the direction of the initial budget request from the White House. (HERE)
The White House budget increases spending for the program by $16 million over FY22 spending. The push to maintain the accelerated removals remains funded and it appears the additional funding for fertility control also remains funded. The prohibition against open sales to slaughter remains intact.
We see no incentive for the agency to rectify longstanding deficits in planning. At this time we see no additional funding to address any scientific baseline for population levels, management goals, etc. This would be achieved by prohibiting funding removals and fertility control (any action) in Herd Management Areas (HMA) where the agency has continued to fail to create herd management plans (HMAP). An HMAP is where forage allocation, AML, habitat improvements, genetic preservation, etc. would be set.
What we see is exactly what was expected; the continuation of the status quo and more funding to appease politics.
Read below for more info.
The process begins with the release of the President’s proposed budget. (The FY23 Proposed Budget can be found HERE).
The final bill that gets passed (after the House and Senate work to pass their versions, consolidate the versions and then it lands back on the President’s desk) often looks very different than the original proposal. Many of you will remember the President’s proposed budget for FY18 included killing wild horses in holding facilities and resuming open sales to slaughter. The bill signed into law did not include funding for that request.
The two chambers of Congress (the Senate and the House of Representative) each draft their own budget resolution after the Presidential request is published.
The appropriations committee for each chamber divides the amount allotted for federal agency funding between 12 subcommittees. Each subcommittee is in charge of funding for different functions of government, such as defense spending, energy and water, and interior and environment, and for the agencies involved.
Subcommittees will then conduct hearings with agency leaders about their budget requests and then draft appropriations bills setting the funding for each agency. There will be upcoming hearings where heads of DOI, DoA, BLM, USFS, etc. will present their budget requests to these subcommittees. In the case of DoI (BLM) we expect a reiteration of the request for continued funding of the “2020 plan.” When we look at budget requests it is important to remember that BLM manages more free-roaming horses and burros than all other jurisdictions combined.
The full House and Senate vote on their subcommittee bills and propose any amendments, vote on those, and then each chamber (House and Senate) have their respective bills completed. Finally, they merge both versions of each (subcommittee), and vote on the identical version of every bill.
Then a bill lands back on the desk of the President to sign or veto.
If no agreement is found then the government is at risk of shutting down due to lack of any available funding. This is where we see the shorter term bills passed (continuing resolutions) until a full. package can be agreed on.
The process is long with many debates and layers before a final bill is created that funds any agency actions.
Because of all of the short term bills that funded federal activities from Oct 2021 through March (when the final FY22 budget passed) there is now only 6 months to pass an FY23 budget before federal funding runs out under the current bill.
The next 6 months will be a roller-coaster of debate.
The Appropriations (spending) debate is really important for advocates to watch. Many of you are very aware that the entire debacle of the threat of sales to slaughter (after title transfers) came after the debate for the 2004 budget and the last minute rider attached by Conrad Burns (R-MT).
The bill that just passed on March 15 for FY22 (through Oct. 1)
The FY22 bill that just passed increased BLM funding for the Wild Horse and Burro program by $21 million more than the FY21 funding. The bill also included this language “The Bureau of Land Management is directed to use $11,000,000 of the funds appropriated for this program to enter cooperative efforts with other Federal partners to significantly progress the administration of and research on reversible immunocontraceptive fertility control. This should include public-private partnerships and simultaneous evaluation of multiple fertility control alternatives at a meaningful scale. To tackle this challenge, the Bureau needs to focus on achieving a sustainable Appropriate Management Level while ensuring that all removals are conducted in strict compliance with the Bureau’s Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program and any population growth suppression strategies must be proven, safe, and humane.”
The bill that just passed also calls for an “interagency task force to deal with the crisis of growing wild horse populations” and a “quarterly report” to Congress addressing progress toward meeting objectives to get to Appropriate Management Levels (AML), fertility control, the Adoption Incentive Program (AIP) monitoring, etc.
The bill continues to prohibit BLM from killing healthy equines or selling them without restriction (to slaughter).
We expect the proposed bill for FY23 to continue to ignore the failure of BLM to craft site-specific management planning (the HMAP). Congress should be requiring the agency to craft these plans prior to spending any money on any population growth suppression (fertility control or removal). However, it has been very difficult to get Congress to understand this basic concept when “fertility control” is the first line anyone in Congress (or the media) wants to talk about. It seems everyone has forgotten that the appropriateness of any action must first be part of a management plan. The idea that “population growth suppression” is the root of all problems has become deeply entrenched (in part due to advocacy itself focused on that debate).
We expect the Presidential budget request to reflect the continuation of the direction of the FY22 budget and the BLM” 2020 plan.” Although the 2020 plan does mention the HMAP (and hints at the deficit by obscuring how bad the lack of planning actually is) no funding has been provided in any budget to rectify that egregious error.
We hope that our readers reach out to Congress and try to help us turn some attention to actual deficits in planning over the coming months. Congress is hyperfocused on population growth suppression and get so many emails and lobbyists into their offices that keep the focus on that issue. It is really hard to get other considerations into the conversation.
You can see (and send) our preliminary action item for FY23 HERE.
Our suggested comments focus on drought, planning, transparency and prohibiting sales to slaughter.
Capitol Hill Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Representative. You can say:
“I’m a constituent, and I’m calling to ask that you please do all you can to influence the crafting of the 2023 Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Spending bill to help begin actual reform of the Wild Horse and Burro Program.
- Designate $5 million for water source creation and repair in HMAs.
- Defund removal plans where the BLM has skirted the NEPA process and failed to create a management plan for the herd, an HMAP.
- Designate specific funds to provide for an open online portal where the public can access range monitoring, roundup veterinary reports, shipping manifests and death statistics.
- Defund the Adoption Incentive Program pending a review.
- Continue to deny funding for “sales without limits.”
We will adjust the suggested topics after reviewing the budget request that will drop.
In the meantime…
The current FY22 budget will fund mass removals through the end of the fiscal year; over 11,000 wild horses and burros are slated for capture through the end of FY22. The budget that just passed does focus on prioritizing immunocontraception (PZP) over other types and methods. PZP is primarily used as part of a helicopter capture and the additional $11 million in funding does not state the method of application and the funding can be funneled into “research.”
Supporting HR 6635 is something you can do to try to impact the helicopter assault. The bill prohibits choppers, tasks the Government Accounting Office (GAO) with doing a study (not just the quarterly report BLM will supply Congress) while maintaining the spending language in the current bill that mandates funding be spent on immunocontraception (but without a chopper).
HR 6635 is a stand alone bill and not part of the spending debate. HR 6635 is not a funding amendment.
Legislation (bills) is an avenue to address what funding will be spent on and deficits in laws and ambiguity of law. Another avenue that can work hand-in-hand to gain accountability, or to demonstrate the need for legislative action to change the language of the law, is litigation.
Litigation is still very much alive including the case against the “spay plan” at Confusion HMA in Utah. Spaying was removed from the plan, however the method they arrived at the conclusions in the gather plan are still at issue (in other words, no underlying planning for an HMAP that began with public input or scoping). Utah has changed tactics a bit in the new planning they are offering to the public (example: Scoping on the Fertility Control Plan EA at Cedar). This is a step in the right direction toward gaining actual stakeholder involvement. However, until an HMAP-EA is created that first addresses the actual objectives for management, any planning EA still skips the most crucial step outlined by BLM themselves (HMAP). Legal action against closed door facilities (Winnemucca), the damage done by BLM by not crafting an HMAP (Pancake), etc. is all still in active status in the courts and we need to wait for adjudication before determining the next steps.
Until we can get Congress to understand that everything they are funding is not actually based in the site-specific planning that traditionally governs actions on public lands (HMAP) that will remain an issue we will be relegated to address district-by-district in the courts.
There will only be a few short months to influence the Appropriations bill for FY23 to defund actions in HMAs where there is no actual site-specific management plan, just removal plans (Gather-EA).
In the coming days the confusion over how the budget debate works, what it means, how other actions all tier from the Appropriations bill, will increase significantly.
“If you are advocating for a sick child you look at all the symptoms, all the options, and try to address the best outcome based on what you have learned, in whatever framework available. You do not just yell at the doctor that the disease does not exist.”
We urge you to remember that this debate, although important and under a shorter timetable, does provide you with time to research before you pick up a phone and take action.
Be ready for an interesting week.
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Categories: Wild Horse Education