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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 Resources.

      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 RECORD.

      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,


      This Act may be cited as the ``Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Sale and Adoption Act of 2005''.


      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 following:

      ``(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.

  1. Senator Reid's telephone number: 202.224.3542

  2. Please contact your own Senator and express your concerns over S.1273.
    • Locate your Senator here

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