Senate Bill Introduced to Expand
Wild Horse & Burro Sale Authority
June 29 protest a success. Click
here for details.
It appears going into the fall recess that S.1273 is going to die for lack of cosponsors.
Original Bulletin on the Topic
Authentication: US Senate Thomas Locator Svc.
Web Master's note: While this bill was introduced as a wild horse protection bill, it actually places an estimated 16,000 additional horses at risk and it is glaringly absent of any specific protection language.
Senator Harry Reid (D-WV) introduced the following legislation on June 21, 2005
To restore the prohibition on the commercial sale and slaughter of wild free-roaming horses and burros. (Introduced in Senate)
By Mr. REID:
S . 1273 . A bill to provide for the sale and adoption of excess wild
free-roaming horses and burros; to the Committee on Energy and Natural
Mr. REID. Mr. President, today I rise on behalf of myself and Senator
ENSIGN(*) to offer legislation that will give greater protections to our
Nation's wild horses and make needed improvements to the Bureau of Land
Management's wild horse and burro adoption program.
Right now there are an estimated 32,000 wild horses on our Nation's
public lands. This is 4,000 more horses than our rangeland can sustain.
The Bureau of Land Management has established that nationwide, the
Appropriate Management Level for wild horses and burros is 28,000.
Unfortunately, after many years of trying, the BLM has been unable to
reach this benchmark, even after many significant budget increases for
the wild horse and burro program. This situation is compounded by the
fact that wild horses naturally reproduce at a rate of 20 percent per
annum, adding to management difficulties and placing greater strain on
our public rangelands.
In Nevada, we feel the failures of the wild horse and burro program
most acutely. Of the 32,000 horses on America's public lands, roughly
half are in Nevada. So when the program fails, it hits us hard. In
recent years, the program's shortcomings have been amplified by an
ongoing drought in the Southwest that has, in places, seriously
jeopardized the health and well-being of wild horses and burros and has
devastated the rangeland upon which they depend for their survival.
At present, the wild horse program is failing on both ends. The BLM
is struggling to remove sufficient numbers of horses from the range and
many of the horses that are removed are placed into an adoption program
that is not locating a sufficient number of willing adopters. This means
that more horses stay in Government hands, driving the cost of this
troubled program ever higher. As a result, today we have nearly 22,000
wild horses sitting in long-term holding facilities in the Midwest,
costing the U.S. taxpayer approximately $465 per horse, per year. And
this is only part of the roughly $40 million we are spending this year
to manage our Nation's wild horses and burros. Add this to the fact that
the cost of running this program has doubled in the last five years and
it becomes clear that reform is needed.
Last year, Congress passed language that allowed the BLM to sell a
limited number of the horses that are held in long-term holding
facilities. Unfortunately, this additional management tool has been
abused by a handful of people and a small number of horses ended up at
slaughter. These unfortunate events have led to calls for greater
protections for wild horses that are being offered to the public under
the sale program.
Mr. President, the legislation that we offer today provides that
greater protection for wild horses, while also giving the BLM greater
leverage to put more horses into the hands of good, caring owners.
Currently, wild horses that are acquired through the BLM's adoption
program are federally protected for 1 year. This is the strongest
protection available to wild horses that are placed into private
ownership and our bill extends this protection to horses that are
acquired under sale authority.
Our legislation also gives the BLM more flexibility in finding good
homes for wild horses. We do this by giving the BLM the authority to
make all horses that are not suitable for the adoption program available
for purchase by caring owners.
We also lift the limit on the number of horses that an approved
adopter can take title to in a single year, and we lower the minimum
adoption fee from $125 to $25. It is our firm belief that when good
people want to adopt horses and meet the requirements set forth by the
BLM, they should have as few barriers to overcome as possible. By
increasing the number of horses that can be adopted and lowering the
adoption fee, we believe that we can put more horses into the hands of
more quality owners.
Our goal is to give all wild horses the maximum protection available
under our current system and to provide the BLM with the management
tools they need to get tens of thousands of wild horses and burros into
safe and caring homes. We believe that this is the right thing to do. I
look forward to working with the Energy Committee and the Senate to move
this legislation expeditiously.
I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the
There being no objection, the bill was ordered to be printed in the
RECORD, as follows:
S . 1273
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ``Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros
Sale and Adoption Act of 2005''.
SEC. 2. SALE AND ADOPTION OF WILD FREE-ROAMING HORSES AND BURROS.
Section 3 of Public Law 92-195 (16 U.S.C. 1333) is amended--
(1) in subsection (b)(2)--
(A) in subparagraph (B), by striking ``: Provided'' and all that
follows through ``adopting party''; and
(B) by striking subparagraph (C) and inserting the following:
``(C) Additional excess wild free-roaming horses and burros for
which an adoption demand by qualified individuals does not exist shall
be sold under subsection (e).'';
(2) in subsection (c), by striking ``not more than four animals''
and inserting ``excess animals transferred '';
(3) in subsection (e)--
(A) in paragraph (1), by striking subparagraph (A) and inserting the
``(A) the Secretary determines that there is no adoption demand from
qualified individuals for the excess animal;'';
(B) in paragraph (2), by striking ``without limitation''; and
(C) by striking paragraph (4) and inserting the following:
``(4) EFFECT OF SALE.--At the end of the 1-year period following the
sale of any excess animal under this subsection--
``(A) the Secretary shall grant to the
transferee title to the excess animal; and
``(B) the excess animal transferred shall no longer be considered to
be a wild free-roaming horse or burro for purposes of this Act.''; and
(4) by adding at the end the following:
``(f) Minimum Fees and Bids.--The minimum adoption fee required for
the adoption of an excess animal under this section shall be $25.''
Important Notice:(*) Senator Ensign's office advised the national Wild Horse Planning Group that he is not a co-sponsor of this bill.
S.1273 is remarkably familiar to the infamous "Fee Waiver" program of the mid 1980s that resulted in the disappearance of thousands of supposedly adopted wild horses, most of whom ended up at slaughter plants. Martha Mendoza wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning series of articles on this program that was dubbed by many as "The wild horse scandal that no one wants to face."
While it may be arguable that BLM needs some greater flexibility in placing wild horses that it is keeping in long term holding facilities, most of these schemes, such as S.1273, are glaringly missing any language that prohibits animals sold through such schemes from being slaughtered once sold.
Senator Reid has suggested that the one year waiting period before receiving title would discourage people from purchasing animals for sale to slaughter. However with the limitation on numbers that buyers can adopt or purchase being removed, it is cost-effective to purchase a large number of horses, fatten them up on pasture for a year, then sell them to the slaughterhouses. Furthermore, S.1273 allows horses to be sold that fall within age groups more desired by the slaughterhouses.
We have spoken to Senator Reid's staff and the Senator may be amenable to adding language that would prohibit animals sold under S.1273 from being rendered into commercial products via slaughter or other means.
Interested parties should contact Senator Reid and express their concerns.
- Senator Reid's telephone number: 202.224.3542
- Please contact your own Senator and express your concerns over S.1273.