The Appropriations process has begun. With this debate comes the annual confusion over the process. Appropriations is bill that must go through both houses of Congress, be passed containing identical language and the go to the President to be signed. (A basic outline of Appropriations process can be found HERE)
As with any action you take in your advocacy, we advise that you learn about the issue and determine what your personal view is prior to taking any action and organization asks you to take. Please read any “sign-on” letter before adding your name. Please take time to understand an issue before calling your reps and repeating a scripted message. We have seen a number of people, with all good intentions, repeat scripts that are actually counterproductive to the agenda we see them articulate in email or social media. Make sure you trust the source of the item before adding your name. This is just a good general statement for everything you get in your inbox.
With any bill, including Appropriations, you should take a 4-step approach to fully engage with your legislators: send a “click and send” that most closely represents your view, respond to the letter you get back in a fleshed out letter or email, make a call, meet with an aide in your representatives office (most aides will meet with you via Zoom or other online portal if you cannot get to their office in person). You can take as many steps as you have time to take; by taking 1 or 2 steps you still help forward the efforts of those taking all 4 steps and the actions others are taking behind the scenes.
Background (the way we see it): Since 2018 (the first time BLM incorporated “Path Forward” into the report to Congress), there has been a steady rise in funding. The increases in funding have been allotted to multiple purposes touted as “reform” (on-range planning, fertility control, range improvements, oversight) yet that funding has been utilized to simply ramp up the capture and stockpile machine that represents the core of the same old broken program and actually increases reproductive rates in the wild (through destabilization of existing band structure and is a known scientific fact). At the same time habitat loss and fragmentation due to relentless industrial expansion has been permitted in areas designated for use by wild horses and burros… where BLM continues to avoid even identifying critical seasonal migratory routes and resources our wild ones need to survive. The steady increase in funding has fueled capture and warehouse as BLM destroys wild horse habitat, continues to violate humane policy standards during capture and in holding, rapidly approves and expand holding facilities that are off-limits to public view, does not disclose monitoring data, etc. 2022 saw more wild horses and burros removed from western rangeland than in any other year since the 1971 law to protect wild horses/burros was passed.
The following 4-step plan represents the recommendations of WHE for your advocacy to help us gain traction for actual reform and not just taglines that assert reform is happening. Each year since 2018, you have seen many call the increase in funding a victory or reform. If you do not believe what you have seen is reform, please consider taking the following actions.
Step 1: Send this letter to your representatives.
This letter is an introduction to the issue. The response you send in step 2 lets you expand on the issue. It is always good to limit the intro to no more than 4 subjects.
Simple introduction letter that begins to describe reform of the program and explain why funding should be frozen until historic flaws are addressed; flaws that are compounding under the budget increases since 2018.
- BLM should be reporting to Congress on the number of actual management plans they create. The last time BLM released any update on the lagging Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) creation process was in September 1996; where the few existing plans were documents stating that more data needed to be collected to create a plan. This lack of actual management planning has been replaced by removal plans and is an outrage that needs to be corrected.
- We need an online portal that gives full transparency. BLM needs to post facility intake, inventory and vet reports. BLM needs to make public all independent contracts, agreements, Memorandum of Understanding. BLM needs to include any monitoring data and flight inventories on their website.
- BLM needs to revise the animal welfare policy. Since adopting a policy in 2016, BLM simply began insufficient reporting in 2021. Infractions during roundups have become routine and disease is far too common in BLM facilities.
Step 2: Answer
After you send the brief “click and send” in step 1, you should receive a response from your representative. Too often, these responses will not directly respond to the issues you raise in your letter. Sometimes they will simply toggle to another bill that has the word “horse” in it. However, they will contain specific contact information beyond the “catch all” email on the representatives website.
Use that email (or physical address) to send a longer letter expanding your point of view. Even if the letter addresses your points, take this step. Building a relationship with your representatives office is important.
Step 3: Call
After you take step 2, wait a week or two and then use the phone number on the reply you received after step 1 and call. Let them know you sent a response letter and would like to talk to the aide that handles public lands/Interior Department budget for the office. Mention that continuing to increase the budget to perpetuate the same methods, on top of the same archaic infrastructure, is not working… and will never be sound.
If the aide has time to speak further, begin to address the points in your letter. If the aide does not have time at that moment, make an appointment for a meeting (in-person or virtual).
Step 4: Meeting
Meeting with your representatives (or the aide that handles the specific issue for your rep) is the best way to present your viewpoint and build relationship.
It is a great idea to have a copy of the letter you sent and any supporting documentation in a folder you can reference during the meeting and leave with the aide. If you are meeting virtually, have those documents handy to email before, during or after, your call.
If your representative is on the Appropriations committee (in either the House or Senate) they will be involved in drafting the spending bill for the Department of Interior (that umbrellas the Bureau of Land Management, BLM).
This year Mark Amodei (R-NV), Chris Stewart (R-UT) and former Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke (R-MT) are on the House subcommittee that will be drafting the spending bill for the Interior Department. Ryan Zinke resigned from his position at Interior under a flood of ethics violations. Stewart and Amodei were part of corporate lobby effort behind Path Forward (the plan BLM has been following the last 4 years). In our opinion, these 3 should not be allowed to fund plans they help craft with huge corporate lobby groups. (subcommittees: House members, Senate members)
If your reps are not on the subcommittee or committee, they can still propose amendments and will have a vote before the bill leaves their chamber. It is also important to remember that aides talk to each other… and you may be writing or talking with an aide that feels this issue is important enough to discuss with others.
Our team is working on a full legislative look at all bills that could potentially impact wild horses and burros if passed this session. We do not expect much to pass this session, outside a spending bill, that could benefit public lands due to the huge divide in House and Senate (unless the bill is more publicity than substance).
Our teams are busy working multiple legal actions that address loss of habitat, removal plans and closed door facilities.
More from our team soon.
Help keep us in the fight
Categories: Wild Horse Education