Wild Horse Education

Budget (Clarity and an action item or three)

We are receiving multiple emails about the budget bill for Interior that passed out of the House subcommittee yesterday. Many of you want us to explain changes you are reading about on the internet.

We know this process gets confusing each year: people interpret, share statements on the internet, but do not provide you with actual text language or process. The bill needs to go to a floor vote in the House, and then on to the Senate to repeat the process, before being signed into law. The budget is not law, yet.

We need to clarify that nothing has changed. The version of the bill for FY2023 is essentially the same text as last year, FY2022. You can view side-by-side text of the bill.


You can compare bills yourself by looking them up on the House subcommittee website.  (Chart provided by Advocates for Wild Equine, AWE, citizen lobby coalition).

In shorthand, this bill funds the third year (in full) of the BLM 2020 plan: roundup to low AML, apply multiple forms of fertility control in a single herd, enter into agreements (paid and otherwise) for capture and fertility control and, when inbreeding happens because stocking levels (Appropriate Management Level, AML) is too low, just introduce a few horses from outside the Herd Management Area (HMA). The prohibition against using funding to directly sell to slaughter is maintained (this provision has been defunded since the day it was added in 2004). The bill maintains a caveat for keeping an eye on the Adoption Incentive Program (subsidized adoptions) and a hollow shout out to the animal welfare policy by noting existing law.

Did you wonder why there was no opposition to the bill from the same people trying to speed up processing for mining, oil and gas and stop the Greater Sage Grouse from being listed on the Endangered Species Act (ESA)? It is because public lands industry agrees with the approach.

There is one simple change that could be made to create something in this bill that actually could lead to a meaningful change from what we have seen since 2020: One word could be stricken to create an opportunity to repatriate an area zeroed out of wild horses or burros that was once designated for their use. (There are a number of other changes that could begin real reform, like recognizing the number of wild horses on the range is actually absurdly low and forage allocations must be increased for and not the lions share continually handed to livestock, but this one is really simple.)

Strike the word “Management” from this sentence: 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.

Change to:Departmental task force, efficacy of identifying and relocating horses to different Herd Management Areas … 

You could call your representative and ask that they propose to amend that one sentence when the Appropriations bill goes to a floor vote. You can find your House representative http://govtrack.us or call the switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your House Representative. 

After the 1971 Wild Horses and Burros Act became law, ranges were designated for use by wild horses and burros. These areas were called “Herd Areas.” A few years later BLM created the label “Herd Management Area” or HMA to label the areas they felt they wanted to manage horses and zeroed out the rest. Today, when an HMA is “zeroed out” it “reverts” to HA status. It is within the discretion of the Secretary to repatriate an HA, but it has never happened. HA land was designated for wild horse or burro use. The Secretary cannot put horses or burros where no such designation existed.

From BLM 2022 report:

HMA (BLM land) in the US is 26,917,766 acres. 

HA (BLM land) in the US is 42,304,802 acres.

Evaluating an HA would have real impact if repatriated. A repatriated HA could reduce the number in holding. 

BLM only adds wild horses to an HMA (currently some “gather plans” include introduction of new animals) when the AML is so low it represents genetic instability. BLM will NOT add wild horses to an HMA where they are saying they must reach a low AML.

Believing that any evaluation of an HMA for release of captive of wild horses from holding is not realistic or logical. The only thing an evaluation would help accomplish is to bolster the agency justification of low AML (because they claim introducing genetic material was “approved by Congress”). The idea that each herd (HMA) carries special genetics tied to the evolution of the land they stand… goes right out the window.

Please remember: there are many ways to fight back against the 2020 plan. The first thing is to have the information you need to make critical judgements.

You may feel that the budget last year (and the year before) has created the beginning of the change you seek.

If not, we hope you join us and take the action outlined above. 

WHE have several additional action items you can take:

Let’s get a real review of the program. We need a new report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). The last one is a decade old. 

Support HR6635, and help STOP the helicopters and gain an investigation.

Addressing some of the rumors about the budget bill:

The Adoption Incentive Program (AIP), the subsidized adoption that has been landing horses in the slaughter pipeline, is not suspended. 

The bill does not repatriate land taken from horses.

The bill does not include Herd Management Area Plans (HMAP). The bill only notes “plans,” and BLM is creating “Gather plans” hand over fist. 

The bill does not stop sterilization. 

The bill does not grant agreements with veterans groups or wild horse orgs., it just says they can be included. However, last years bill already had language that included them (public and federal partnerships) and some groups appliedBLM controls the application process and the parameters, not the spending bill that simply provides funds.

Read the side-by-side and remember all this does is fund, it does not make policy to carry out the use of funding. BLM creates the processes and mechanisms to carry out funding primarily through existing NEPA.

More coming soon. You can be notified of future articles by following our website HERE. 

Help keep us in the fight. 


Categories: Wild Horse Education