Every year as the Appropriations (budget) bills move through the process we receive many questions. Most of the questions revolve around periodic misconceptions that the process has ended or something has been “won or lost.” Over the last several years Congress has not passed any consolidated spending bill before the expiration of the fiscal year (Oct. 1) and we have had a series of short-term bills passed simply to keep the government running. This has led to further confusion for many.
We hope this answers many of your questions.
Skip to BOLDED BLUE Text for current bill language as of 6/29.
The spending bill begins with a request from the White House. That bill moves into both House and Senate where subcommittees for each branch create a detailed version that reflects their part of the whole. After debate and what is called a “markup” (where changes are made) the bill passes to committee and then a full floor vote. When the bill passes the House it moves to the Senate to repeat the process. If House and Senate versions do not match there is another committee that negotiates to create a single version of each bill, consolidate those bills, then send them to the President to be signed into law.
The process follows the same steps as any other bill… except there is a deadline to pass them or the government has no funding to operate.
As of today the provision that allows open sales to slaughter remains defunded, the agency gets more money for “fertility control” and removals. Essentially, the exact same language that has driven the 2020 Plan is included since the 2020 Plan was crafted.
The pieces of the spending bill that directly impact the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro Program sit in the section titled “Interior, Environment and Related Agencies.” You can read the entire draft of the bill HERE.
There was a markup on the House subcommittee version on June 21 and another scheduled for June 29 (tomorrow). We are waiting to see the version that will be debated tomorrow. We have not seen any text on new proposed amendments come through as of the writing of this piece. We will add them here if we receive any. EDITED 6/29: The spending bill has passed committee with no amendments to the wild horse and burro budget. The bill goes to House vote and then the process will repeat in the Senate. Of note to all interested in preserving rangelands, the bill does not include language prohibiting the listing of the Greater Sage Grouse on the Endangered Species Act; prohibitions to list sage grouse created negotiations that have been a big policy driver to keep industry in charge. It will be important to watch.
The White House request for Fiscal Year 2023 included $153.1 million for the Wild Horse and Burro Program. The request includes treating 2,650 animals (wild horses and burros) with fertility control treatments and permanent sterilization. The request is $16 million over FY22 spending.
The version in the House maintains these requests, is likely to remain the same, and includes this language:
Wild Horse and Burro Management.—The Committee recommends $156,100,000 which supports implementation of the May 2020 plan and includes up to $11,000,000 for research on reversible immunocontraceptive fertility control and its administration and includes $206,000 for fleet enhancement. The Committee restates the need for the Wild Horse and Burro Task Force to be actively engaged and to leverage resources to protect the welfare of the wild horses and burros and conserve and restore the range for the habitat it provides to other species and the ecosystem services that are essential to protect human and species health and well-being in the face of climate change.
The Committee directs the Task Force to re-view the Bureau’s efforts in fertility control, examine how to in- crease off-range holdings that can sustain year-round grazing by many horses, and review the Adoption Incentive Program to make sure there are no weaknesses that would jeopardize the welfare of these animals. Staffing is critical to effectively administer this pro- gram and the Bureau is directed to ensure the program is at full staffing capacity especially in the areas of contracting. The challenges of this program are intensified by the historic drought conditions being experienced in the West.
The Committee directs the Bureau to develop plans that ensure they can administer fertility control, conduct targeted removals from the most heavily and impacted population areas, expand long-term off range holding and any alternatives, and increase adoptions. To better accomplish these goals, the Bureau should establish public/private partnerships, to include working with veterans and wild horse organizations, to implement a robust immunocontraceptive fertility control program.
The Bureau must also ensure 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 strategy will not include any sale or actions that result in the destruction of healthy animals, which continues to be prohibited by this bill.
The Bureau is directed to provide quarterly updates to the Committee on the allocation of resources, achievement of performance metrics, input from the Departmental task force, efficacy of identifying and relocating horses to different Herd Management Areas, and to discuss any proposed changes to the current course of action.
The bill continues to prohibit BLM from killing healthy equines or selling them without restriction (to slaughter). This provision has been defunded (spending prohibited) since the language that open sales to slaughter was within agency authority was inserted after the Burns Amendment was slipped into the 2004 Appropriations (spending) bill. The language has not been repealed (removed); so each year the provision is exempted from being funded. (A 2020 article that explains the wild horse and burro slaughter language, including the Burns debacle, HERE.)
Chatter around the bill:
Repatriating lands that were once managed for wild horses is something that should be considered. Repatriating HA land is within the authority of the Secretary of the Interior, authorized by the Act. The Secretary cannot place horses onto public lands where the land was never designated for their use, but horses and burros can be managed on land taken from them. Land once designated for use by wild horses can be reestablished for their use following evaluation. The bill contains language that says it should be “looked into,” but no designated funding is provided. Designated funding could change that.
Currently the bill only discusses relocation to other HMAs, not repatriating HAs. BLM has already approved adding horses from one HMA into another when they push populations down below genetic viability and need to introduce a few horses from another area due to inbreeding.
Many people forget the original designations were Herd Areas (HA). The agency removed territory for wild horses and burros and called the new areas Herd Management Area (HMA). So when an HMA is “zeroed out” it reverts to “HA” status.
You can read the 2022 language from the House bill at the bottom of this page. There are literally no substantive changes.
We expect the final 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 as “corporate interests” take over on the spending bill and “overpopulation” is the topic every legislator wants to address in the spending bill.
We expect the final budget 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 expect the 2020 Plan (Path Forward) to continue to be funded. However, it is extremely reasonable for you to demand a science based review BEFORE funds are released.
The acceleration of removals and a mashup of fertility control have been approved 3 years running. Continuing to fund this program without review is irresponsible.
- Congress must immediately require BLM to commission a study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) of the Wild Horse and Burro program.
- The agency must be prohibited from restricting the information the NAS can utilize in making determinations.
- The NAS must not be restricted from analyzing any component, program or sub-program.
- Congress must set a time limit of no more than twelve (12) months for the agency to submit a programmatic planning document to address the review.
You can also help to pass HR 6635 to STOP the helicopters and investigate. This bill could help us divert the path of the corporate 2020 plan that Congress is (highly) likely to continue to fund. HERE.
We are also working hard in the courts as another avenue to address deficits in planning and execution of the broken program. One of the things the opposition talks about all the time is that “wild horse orgs need to stop litigating and negotiate.” We find this almost humorous as the statement often comes from one of the most litigious factions (livestock). We will continue to seek a bit of justice for our wild ones.
The last leg of the FY 2022 roundup season begins Friday. Over 8,000 wild horses and burros are targeted to be removed through mid-October. This is what the current bill will continue to fund and what the 2020 Plan looks like in action.
We must fight back in every avenue available to us. Please take the bolded actions listed above as Congress continues to prioritize funding the corporate driven 2020 Plan without any real reform of the broken program.
2022 Language, absolutely no changes.
Wild Horse and Burro Management.—The Committee recommends $162,093,000 which supports implementation of the May 2020 plan and includes $11,000,000 for administration of and research on reversible immunocontraceptive fertility control; and $504,000 to transition to a zero emission fleet. The Committee is making a large Federal investment in the wild horse and burro program and wants to ensure that these resources protect the welfare of the wild horses and burros and conserve the range for the habitat it provides to other species and the ecosystem services that are essential to protect human and species health and well-being in the face of climate change. The Committee directs the Secretary to establish a task force to bring experts from all Interior bureaus together to address the challenge of wild horses and burros. 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 strategy will not include any sale or actions that result in the destruction of healthy animals, which continues to be prohibited by this bill. The Bureau is also directed to protect against any violation of the law. Specifically, the Bureau is to re- view its Adoption Incentive program and work with the Office of the Solicitor to strengthen contractual language and address any weakness in the program that would jeopardize the welfare of these animals. The Bureau is directed to provide quarterly updates to the Committee on the allocation of resources, achievement of performance metrics, input from the Departmental task force, efficacy of identifying and relocating horses to different Herd Management Areas, and to discuss any proposed changes to the current course of action. The recommendation provides $504,000 for the transition to a zero emission fleet.
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Categories: Wild Horse Education