President Donald Trump’s budget request, released this week, includes a provision changing how the Bureau of Land Management manages wild mustangs in the West.
Both the BLM and its detractors agree there are too many wild horses on the landscape. Erin Curtis is the Deputy State Director of Communications for BLM Idaho.
“We cannot keep up with what’s happening out on the range and overpopulation,” says Curtis.
There are 563 horses on BLM land and 1,746 in corrals in Idaho. Nationwide, 46,015 are in holding facilities and almost 72,764 wild horses and burros are on public land. The BLM says that’s three times the amount the land can handle.
The key changes in Trump’s budget proposal include allowing the BLM to use humane euthanasia on some horses and the unrestricted sale of some animals. Curtis says those were tools that the mustang program had when it was started in 1971, but over time Congress stopped those practices.
Curtis says that has left the agency with limited options. She says birth controls methods employed by the BLM have not been very successful and wild horse adoptions have been declining over the years.
“We’re never going to find enough homes for them through adoption,” says Curtis.
The proposed changes could allow the sale of horses to third parties that could take them to slaughter in Canada and Mexico. Curtis says that’s a controversial option, but she says right now the horses face starvation on the range and are negatively impacting the public lands they live on due to overpopulation.
Many groups, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, are denouncing the Trump proposal. Nancy Perry with ASPCA Government Relations says Congress, and Americans, won’t go for it.
“It’s absolutely absurd and shocking and irresponsible,” says Perry.
The ASPCA says the BLM needs to focus more on birth control when it comes to controlling horse populations. Perry also says over the decades public rangeland available to the animals has declined. She says the BLM needs to open up more land to horses. And she says the agency needs to match more horses with people who can care for them.
Perry says ASPCA research shows 80 percent of Americans do not support killing horses for food. She says they’re part of our western heritage and a symbol of freedom.
“And gunning them down in holding facilities at taxpayer expense, or shuttling them off to slaughterhouses to become part of someone’s dinner plate in Europe is not in accord with American values, certainly will not be acceptable to the American public,” says Perry.
The future of the budget proposal is now in the hands of Congress.
Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio
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