Yesterday the House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2017 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill. However, an amendment to the bill adds language to simplify the process for federal agencies, states and local governments to utilize wild horses and burros as work animals, as requested by the administration. This language removes federal protections from wild horses, making them vulnerable to the whims of western states, which hold ranching interests way above the well-being of wild horses, inevitably making America’s wild horses more vulnerable to slaughter.

Please contact your legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives and tell them to remove the language that allows the BLM to transfer wild horses to agencies as work animals from the 2017 Interior and Environment Appropriations before voting on it this summer. Click here for a directory of representatives.

The amendment fails to:
(1)    place any limits on how many animals will be taken from the wild;
(2)    define how, when and where they can be used as “workers;”
(3)    to define how they will be handled once the work is done; and
(4)    define how abuse or slaughter would be prevented.

Any attempt to preempt federal protection sets a dangerous precedent for state control over federal resources. For instance, the governor of Wyoming has sued the federal government demanding the removal of all wild horses under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management in his state. Just a couple years ago, the Nevada State Legislature, unable to directly authorize the removal of wild horses on federal public lands in that state, considered a bill instead to make it illegal to provide wild horses access to water. Many other states would also like to see the transfer of wild horses on public lands from federal to state officials. Often their stated motive is not to protect the horses, but to destroy them.

“While not easy, the real solution to protect wild horses, is stronger implementation and enforcement of the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971. The goal needs to be the establishment of true zones on public lands where these animals can be free from exploitation and protected from special interests who want to see them gone,” said Michael Harris, director of Friends of Animals’ Wildlife Law Program said.

One way to do that is to prohibit cattle and sheep grazing in Herd Management areas.

The amendment to the bill, which HSUS has been working on with its Congressional allies, also rejects White House proposal to raise fees on American ranchers for grazing on federal land, clearly a move that caters to the cattle and sheep ranching industry, which perpetuates the myth that wild horses are overpopulated on public lands, when in fact the number of cattle and sheep grazing on public lands far outweighs wild horses.

The amendment was introduced by Rep. Chris Stewart(R-Utah), who is no friend to wild horses, often spewing the BLM propaganda that there are 67,000 wild horses on public lands and that that number will double in four years. In 2015 he introduced the Wild Horse Oversight Act, which would allow states to take over the management of wild horses and burros.