Let the caterwauling continue.
The headline over a press release by a group calling itself the American Wild Horse Campaign reads, “80+ Organizations Oppose Trump Administration Plan to Slaughter America’s Mustangs.”
The trigger for the press release — more a fundraising appeal than legitimate polemic — was the release of the Interior Department’s FY2019 budget.
The budget includes this language: “The 2019 budget continues to propose the elimination of appropriations language restricting BLM’s use of all of the management options authorized in the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act. This change will provide BLM with the full suite of tools to manage the unsustainable growth of wild horse and burro herds.”
Similar language was in the FY2018 budget, which has yet to be approved.
You see, the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act states: “The Secretary shall cause additional excess wild free-roaming horses and burros for which an adoption demand by qualified individuals does not exist to be destroyed in the most humane and cost efficient manner possible.”
But every federal budget since 2009, has stated, “Appropriations herein made shall not be available for the destruction of healthy, unadopted, wild horses and burros in the care of the Bureau or its contractors or for the sale of wild horses and burros that results in their destruction for processing into commercial products.”
Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign, was quoted as saying in the press release: “Americans want our wild horses and burros protected, not brutally killed and slaughtered.”
Roy was further quoted as saying the horse advocacy groups support a humane and scientific path for wild horse management.
Yet when the Elko district of the Bureau of Land Management submitted a plan to control the wild horse population with fertility control and gathers without ever mentioning euthanizing excess horses, one of those advocacy groups sued saying such action upset the “social organization, band integrity, and expression of a natural behavior repertoire.”
Though wild horses are dying of starvation and thirst on the depleted and drought-stricken range, the self-styled advocates offer only litigation and wild claims. Letting the status quo continue is hardly humane.
When this issue came up in the House Appropriations Committee a year ago Nevada Republican Rep. Mark Amodei, who supported a return to the language in the 1971 law, said during debate, “First let me say I hate this issue and I think everybody here hates this issue. The reality is we have a problem. We have to face it and we have to deal with it. … You think you’re being kind to horses? You’re not. Letting them starve out on the range? … Nobody’s adopting these things — these horses. Not very many people anyway.”
According to the BLM, if nothing is done, by 2020 there will be 130,000 wild horses and burros on BLM-controlled lands, though the range can sustain only 27,000.
That doesn’t count the 45,000 formerly wild horses and burros currently being kept in off-range pens and pastures at a cost of $50 million a year.
In is unlikely Congress will ever approve the wholesale slaughter of wild horses, but there should be a middle ground compromise that handles horses humanely, saves taxpayers money and protects the range, wildlife and agricultural interests.
A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.