Common Ground Found in New Wild Horse Proposal


By Kayla Sargent

Following months of bantering amongst a diverse group of stakeholders, a proposal for the management of wild horses and burros finally emerged on April 22. Animal activists, livestock producers, local government, and rangeland management professionals hammered out a four pronged proposal designed to address most of the issues by all of the groups.

The four basic components established by the compromise include: fertility control; strategic gathering on overpopulated herd management areas; rehoming of older horses to pasture holding; and increased adoptions of the horses living in pasture holding.  The proposal focuses on the congressional appropriations process and does not include amendments to the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WFRHBA).

“The Path Forward for Management of the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horses and Burros” is intended to have a bright outlook as it was a common ground negotiation between all interested parties.

So far, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), Public Lands Council (PLC), American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), Society for Range Management (SRM), The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) have all announced support of the plan.

Ensuring the plan met the needs of this diverse group was no easy task and stakeholders had to demonstrate some flexibility, AFBF Director of Congressional Relations Ryan Yates said. “While it was difficult for us to cede some tools authorized by the WFRHBA, including sale-without-restriction, we are hopeful that this good-faith effort will soon be rewarded with healthy populations range-wide,” he said.

The SRM is hopeful that the “common-ground” nature of this proposal means it could “finally result in measurable outcomes on the the range and a path toward recovery,” SRM D.C. Liaison Lia Biondo said. This plan, she said, comes at a “critical tipping point” for healthy rangeland management.

PLC Executive Director and Director for NCBA Federal Lands Ethan Lane reiterated the urgency for action on wild horse management.  He said that given the “current political environment” this proposal provides an opportunity to address the “growing wild horse and burro population crisis in the West.”

Animal rights activists offered their support of the plan as well due to its “humane and non-lethal path forward,” HSUS said. “If employed correctly, this proposal will result in a more sustainable wild horse and burro program over the next decade, and thereafter will eliminate the need for large-scale removals of wild horses. Most importantly, a fundamental aspect of the proposal is that it will prohibit the killing of healthy wild horses and burros or their sale to slaughter.”

Echoing the sentiment of compromise, HSUS President and CEO Kitty Block said, “although this proposal requires some interventions for horses that the humane community has fought in the past, the comprehensive plan, as a whole, is the best path forward to protect America’s horses from an ineffective status quo.”

What could have been “considered by many to be a lost cause,” according to Nancy Perry, ASPCA Senior Vice President of Government Relations, could now be “on the verge of converting to a success story.”

All of the aforementioned organizations are urging Congress to adopt the proposal and fund its implementation.

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