U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) along with Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Tom McClintock (R-CA) have introduced what they call the “Wild Horse Oversight Act”, H.R. 5058. The bill would amend the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, 16 U.S.C. Section 1331 et seq. (WFRHBA) to require the Bureau of Land Management or U.S. Forest Service to turn over to a state or federally recognized Native American tribe on demand the responsibility for managing and protecting wild horses and burros on federal public land that is within the state or tribe borders. The state or tribe is required to abide by the WFRHBA.
The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign has strongly denounced the proposed bill. And it is no wonder. Federal oversight has meant the cruel roundup and placement in holding facilities of thousands of America’s iconic wild horses and burros. Fewer and fewer are left on the range. But in some states or tribes, local oversight will mean slaughter for thousands of wild horses and burros. Currently, BLM has a stated policy against slaughter of wild horses and burros. But the states and tribes would be free under the WFRHBA to sell for slaughter wild horses and burros deemed to be excess if they are more than 10 years old or have been offered unsuccessfully for adoption at least 3 times. In fact, the WFRHBA requires the sale of such wild horses and burros to the highest bidder “without limitation”. 16 U.S.C. Section 1333(e).
In some states and tribes, this proposed law would give special interests such as cattle ranchers, the oil and gas industry, mining and other developers unprecedented access to management of wild horses and burros on federal public lands. This bill would only expedite their goal of removing these animals from federal public lands.
The Bureau of Land Management or U.S. Forest Service, as the case may be, would remain responsible for maintaining an inventory of wild horses and burros on public lands. But under this bill it would apparently be up to the state or tribe to determine whether there are “excess” wild horses and burros that are required to be removed to achieve appropriate management levels. Under the WFRHBA the excess wild horses and burros are to be removed to “restore a thriving ecological balance” and protect the range from damage from overpopulation. 16 U.S.C. Section 1333(b). In other words, the state or tribe would have virtually unfettered discretion to round up and remove wild horses and burros. Virtually all of them could end up in a foreign slaughterhouse.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
The bill, H.R. 5058, has been referred to the House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources. If your U.S. representative is on the Committee, be sure to write (letters or faxes are best) or call and urge him or her to vote NO on H.R. 5058 and stop any plan for the senseless slaughter of America’s wild horses and burros. Even if your representative is not on the committee, write or call and urge him or her to contact committee members and urge them to vote no to this legislation.