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Time For Congress To Rein In & Reform BLM’s Wild Horse & Burro Program

March 11th, 2010 by Nicole Meyer

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Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), friend to wild horses

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), friend to wild horses

Congress has begun reviewing the President’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2011 which includes the budget for the Wild Horse and Burro program under the Department of Interior.

Congress’ appropriations (budgeting) process is long and complex. Numerous committees and subcommittees review and modify the President’s proposed budgets for the various departments before they are ultimately approved. We want to make sure all committees and subcommittees that hold hearings on the Interior Department’s budget hear from Americans who want the broken Wild Horse and Burro program completely reformed. As the appropriations process proceeds we will continue to keep you informed of actions you can take to be sure Congress knows what you think.

Three Congressional hearings took place over the past week.

This Monday IDA initiated a 1-Day Action Blitz for Wild Horses & Burros. IDA members and wild horse advocate made their voices heard – over 6,000 faxes were sent to members of the House and Senate Subcommittees. Thanks to you, the Subcommittee members know of the intense national concern about our magnificent wild horses and burros.

On Monday, March 9, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Bob Abbey testified before the House Appropriations Committee to justify BLM’s FY 2011 budget, which includes an additional $12 million for the controversial BLM Wild Horse and Burro program, as well as $42.5 million to purchase private land in the Midwest or East for long-term holding “preserves” for wild horses taken from Western public lands.

We are working to provide a recap of that meeting. Earlier on Monday, Secretary Salazar testified in the Senate Appropriations subcommittee – this meeting focused on renewable energy and other issues were not discussed.

Last Wednesday, March 3, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing (available online here) on the U.S. Department of Interior’s budget proposal. Thanks to all of you who took action last week opposing Salazar’s proposal for wild horses and burros, the senators heard you and both Senators Murkowski (R-AK) and Landrieu (D-LA) addressed the wild horse issue at the hearing. In opening comments Vice Chair Murkoski voiced her “concern” about the direction the agency and about moving more horses to the Midwest and East and not managing on them on their Western range.

Senator Landrieu highlighted her concerns of the program and specifically asked the Secretary what was being done to restore the millions of acres the wild horses have lost over the years. The Senator went on to express her deep concerns over the inhumane roundups during winter weather of ice and snow, and she pointed out that the “horses only have a measly 31 million acres” out of 500 million acres overseen by the Department of Interior. Salazar responded (looking at Landrieu and gesturing to other senators) that he’s aware of their concerns and that he is “not wedded” to his proposal , is open to better ideas and looks forward to working together.

This is a good first step, but we have a lot of work ahead. We’ll continue to provide updates and action alerts – so please stay tuned. The horses and burros need you to keep fighting for them … and please tell a friend about their plight. We need to grow this grassroots movement and that will happen one person at a time.