I.G.H.A. / HorseAid's Bureau of Land Management News

Congressional Subcommittee May Strip Wild
Horse Protections, Allow Sale for Slaughter

Plan to sell wild horses met with favorable reaction by
members of the House Resources Subcommittee

RENO NV (7/13/98): A proposal which would allow the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to sell wild horses was met with a mostly favorable reaction by members of the House Resources Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands at a hearing on July 13. If passed, most of the animals would be sold for slaughter.

The subcommittee convened the hearing in Reno to discuss range issues and the BLM's implementation of the Wild Horse Act. Under the Act, the BLM manages wild horses on U.S. public lands. The largest concentration of wild horses is in the Western states.

Current law prohibits the BLM from selling wild horses or burros for slaughter or for any other commercial purpose. This ban was upheld by a federal district court in 1987 in response to a lawsuit filed by the Animal Protection Institute (API) and The Fund for Animals. This decision was affirmed on appeal in 1988.

Granting the BLM "sale authority" would require an amendment to the 1971 Wild Horses and Burros Act, which protects wild horses from slaughter. All previous attempts to give the BLM sale authority failed.

BLM Nevada Director Robert Abbey testified that 43,000 wild horses and burros currently roam public lands. When asked by Rep. Eni F.H. Faleomavaega (D-AS) about the BLM's highly publicized failure to account for more than 32,000 horses, Abbey responded that the BLM had improved its tracking system, but later admitted that it only covered horses identified in the last four years.

Abby opposed changing the Wild Horse Act, saying he is "fairly confident" that, with sufficient roundups, wild horse populations can be successfully managed under existing law.

The only wild horse advocate to appear was Sheila Hughes Rodriguez, Counsel for API. Ms. Rodriguez testified that "the BLM's current policy on roundups is rapidly decimating populations of wild horses and burros throughout the country" [in violation of] "the very Act it is charged with administering."

Ms. Rodriguez identified ten herd areas in Nevada where the BLM has already announced it would eliminate entire populations of wild horses. According to Ms. Rodriguez, neither the Wild Horses and Burros Act, nor the regulations implementing the Act authorize this action.

Recalling that the 1971 law was specifically intended to stop wild horse slaughter, Rep. Faleomavaega said, "We're beginning to lose what this Act is all about."

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