America’s Wild Horses Will Roam Free, Under New Legislation
February 12, 2009
CONTACT: Allyson Groff or Blake Androff, 202-226-9019 (Natural Resources)
Natalie Luna, 520-622-6788 or cell 520-904-0375 (Grijalva)
Washington, D.C. - House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-WV) and Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) today introduced legislation to ensure the continued protection of the thousands of wild horses and burros that roam the Nation's public lands, which have recently become endangered by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plans to slaughter otherwise healthy animals.
"It is unacceptable for wild horses to be slaughtered without any regard for the general health, well-being, and conservation of these iconic animals that embody the spirit of our American West," Rahall said. "Introduction of this legislation will ensure the continued presence of those wild horses that make their homes on public lands."
"Our wild horses are being harmed by antiquated policies," said Grijalva. "These policies must be updated to reflect Americans' desire to see these horses protected. We must not lose these majestic icons of the West. "
In 1971, the Congress adopted the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act - which stated that wild horses are "an integral part of the natural system of the public lands" - to protect wild horses from "capture, branding, harassment, or death." Since then, the BLM, charged with management of the animals on public lands, has allowed for the general public to adopt wild horses that have been captured when their population becomes excessive.
Last summer, the BLM announced that the combined lack of funding, facilities, and future options may require the killing of as many as 30,000 healthy wild horses and burros. Shortly after, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the findings of its investigation, which revealed a host of troubling problems plaguing the BLM's wild horse and burro program.
The Restoring Our American Mustangs (ROAM) Act (H.R. 1018) would amend the landmark 1971 Act to implement changes suggested by GAO. The bill would:
Remove outdated limits on the areas where horses can roam freely, allowing the BLM to find additional, suitable acreage.
Strengthen the BLM's wild horse and burro adoption program.
Require consistency and accuracy in the management of wild horse and burro herds, and allow more public involvement in management decisions.
Facilitate the creation of sanctuaries for wild horse and burro populations on public lands.
Prohibit the killing of healthy wild horses and burros.
"These critical, commonsense changes to the original Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act will help to sustain the current population of wild horses and burros, without having to resort to slaughter as a solution for management. I am committed to working with my colleagues in the Congress and other stakeholders to correct course and present BLM with a viable management alternative," Rahall said.