Wild Horse Education

Budget Passes, More Money Buys Status Quo

Today, Congress passed more taxpayer money to BLM (Appropriations Bill) to buy more of the same ol’ story.

This budget passing? This is not a celebration of victory, it is a sign to prepare for the next hit.

Maybe that is not what you wanted to hear…. but someone has to say it. 

WHE statement on the budget passed by Congress today for fiscal year 2023.

We wish Congress would stop (only) listening to the big money corporate drivers and listen to the public. Congress should stop allowing those in the “Path Forward” corporate pool (those that signed openly and those that simply worked one arm) to drive the heavy greenwash and start putting the public resource (wild horses and burros) over public relations spin.

This statement from WHE is necessary due to the plethora of press releases calling this a “victory,” again. Each year you see what the budget brings and then the same budget passes (with the same caveats) and the same “victory” messages follow. Rewording the status quo is not a victory.

The prohibition against open sales to slaughter and mass killing of healthy wild horses has been maintained. This is good news. However, open sales to slaughter have been banned since the first year they were allowed, 2004, and new loopholes are repeatedly uncovered each year. So this is not an unexpected victory; Congress is not ready to say they approve open sales to slaughter and killing healthy wild horses. The rest of the bill brings no substantive changes since this (increase in spending) began in 2019.

Since 2019, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has received a steady increase in funding to fuel accelerated removals of wild horses and burros. Holding facilities are nearing capacity as new “off-limits-to-public-view” facilities are being approved.

Many organizations have been touting these increasing budgets as “victories” every single year. Mainly because they claim the funding is to increase the use of a dart gun for vaccines for temporary fertility control. What they fail to tell you is that the BLM won’t do any fertility control until they reach (or near) what they call “Appropriate Management Level” or AML (the number of horses and burros BLM says can exist on the range: about 27,000 west wide). This is NOT reform of a broken program, it is a modern tool to run the status quo. BLM also does most of their fertility control operations in a “catch, treat and release” method as part of an operation that removes wild horses and returns a few (a dart gun is a method, just like capture is, for fertility control).

The (repeated) additional funding has been used to fuel the roundup machine and set the stage for a preferred partnership with those seeking agreements and paid contracts to do fertility control or house wild horses. The additional funding is also being used to research new forms of population control, like sterilization and new dosing schedules for temporary vaccines to create a permanent outcome of sterilization.

It is very important to remember that BLM will only use fertility control as a tool to maintain the status quo. The same AML, forage allocations, increasing industrial expansion, etc. and they will only use it when that low number of horses (or burros) is in sight to allow the status quo (on-range) to continue.

The new budget (the same as the old budget): pushes agreements for fertility control, warehousing and removal. Does that sound like a victory to you?

The new budget says BLM can relocate horses to other Herd Management Areas, or HMAs, (an authority BLM already had) but won’t do unless an existing HMA is not over AML. This provision does not mean putting horses into areas zeroed out (called Herd areas, or HAs). Saying BLM should be looking at putting horses from one HMA into another actually supports BLM intentions to keep genetic viability of each herd “optional” and then simply put horses from one place into another when they damage viability.

We need repatriation of HAs, zeroed out areas. We do not need additional language to urge keeping wild populations in decline and condoning patching up the damage or ignorance of terminology that large organizations should know well: an HMA is not an HA.

WHE tried to breakthrough the big corporate noise and get a few words changed that could actually bring about some small change; we could not get through the money being spent by big money lobbyists. (You can see a side-by-side comparing last year committee recommendations and the ones just passed HERE)

Over the last few years (each time the budget is in debate and you are being told to keep asking for more money for fertility control by many groups) we have asked that you simply stop asking for more money. Ask for existing funding to be designated for the actual reform in range management, creating water improvements, setting limits for industry (livestock and mining), etc.

Last week, we reported on the BLM update to the Sagebrush Ecosystem Council (livestock industry). Once again, we heard BLM reiterate that as soon as they get more money, they will get back to adding the helicopter to the schedule and continue to accelerate removals.

Common thread in BLM updates to livestock:

  • BLM cannot create Herd Management Area Plans (HMAP) until we get to “Appropriate Management Level,” (AML). Even though these plans would determine a science-based, not politically-agreed-to stocking level of wild horses inside the land designated for their use. BLM says they can’t do them until they get to AML.
  • BLM says they cannot increase fertility control, until they get to AML. 
  • BLM says they cannot increase monitoring or do range improvements for wild horses, until they get to AML. 

BLM cannot get to AML until they have more money.  Please remember most stocking levels inside Herd Management Areas were set in initial agreement with livestock in the 70s and 80s and that number just carries over into land use plans. There is NOT a stocking level based on how many horses the land can sustain and then how does industry fit into multiple use. What we see is the opposite, how much industry can fit on the land and what pittance is left over goes to wild horses, burros and wildlife. (note: BLM has used none of the existing funding to create any actual management plans, just removal plans.)

The last thing any advocate (that claims actual reform of the program as a goal) should be asking for is more funding… for anything. 

As we hit the debate for 2024, please be careful which click and send letters you hit and which actions you support. One more year of traveling down this Path Backward slide will cause all of our large herds to be hit as their habitat is given away to industry and impacted by climate change… in other words, our big wild herds will be gone forever and there won’t be enough  range left to restore them.

This budget passing? is not a celebration of victory… it is a sign to prepare for the next hit.

Maybe that is not what you wanted to hear. But someone has to say it. WHE has said it. 

This is a continuation of a modern American tragedy. Our wild horses and the land they stand will continue to be taken away.

Help keep us in the fight.


Categories: Wild Horse Education