Issue: Restore Our American Mustangs Act
Situation Report Summary
Congressman Nick Rahall and Senator Robert Byrd submitted bills before Congress to overhaul the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (Public Law 92-195.) Congressman Rahall's bill, HR.1018, passed in the House of Representatives by a majority of 54 votes. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid submitted to the senate a version of the bill that the House passed in behalf of the bill's sponsor, Senator Byrd. The Senate version of the bill is S.1579.
The short name for the bill is the Restore Our American Mustangs (or ROAM) Act. It seeks to correct what some supporters describe as the Bureau of Land Management's setting adrift in its management responsibilities for free-roaming horses and burros on Federal public lands. The program has been perceived by many as becoming dysfunctional, growing more distant from Congress' original intent, being overly influenced by special interests, and becoming prohibitively expensive.
The bill sets new standards of performance, scientific method and accountability. In the words of one wild horse advocate, "It looks like Congressman Rahall and Senator Byrd plan to jerk the BLM straight."
The bill is primarily opposed by groups who don't want to see the management of wild horses and burros take a positive turn, but who would rather see the program fail and have free-roaming horses and burros eradicated from our public lands. Repeatedly the field experienced wild horse groups have asked for dialogue and to establish workgroups to address the underlying problems associated with wild horse and burro management, and they have been rebuffed by special interests who apparently want to do little else than spew vitriolic nonsense that the horses are responsible for all of the problems found on Western ranges.
The most recent incident involved Bonnie Matton, an experienced outdoorswoman and rancher and President of the Wild Horse Preservation League. Mrs. Matton approached the Nevada Commission on Wildlife asking that a workgroup of qualified experts be established to identify any actual problems associated managing wild horses on public ranges, and that the group's findings be forwarded to Washington to be considered when the ROAM bills were debated. Mrs. Matton echoed a similar finding by her county's Advisory Board to Manage Wildlife. Mrs. Matton and her request for a scientifically based approach to the issue were soundly rebuked by Commission Chairman Gerald Lent, a Jim Gibbons appointee.
The Chairman, dubbed "Boss Lent" by some Nevada sportsmen, and "The Embarrassment" by others, is well known for his lack of decorum and manipulative tactics. (Please see
Raucous crowd at NV Wildlife Commission Meeting.)
In the words of Willis Lamm, President of Least Resistance Training Concepts, one of the wild horse field groups, "Some of these people seem to live in their own universe. Unfortunately they are dragging our wild horses and burros into that universe with them. Congress really has to straighten out the management of our wild horses and burros and get the program back on track."
Most of the organized opposition to the ROAM bill appears to stem from special interest groups such as mining and energy interests and public lands ranchers. Recently the courts have ruled that horses cannot be removed from public lands when in conflict with corporate interests.
(Please see Colorado Wild Horse & Burro Coalition, et al, v. Ken Salazar, Secretary US Department of Interior, et al.)
What you can do
- Learn the facts!
- Contact your Senators!
- Help advocate for change!
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