GET BREAKING NEWS IN YOUR BROWSER. CLICK HERE TO TURN ON NOTIFICATIONS.

X

Wild horses in the Sand Wash herd management area 45 miles west of Craig.
Joe Amon, Denver Post file
Wild horses in the Sand Wash herd management area 45 miles west of Craig.
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

A U.S. Senate committee’s vote to block killing healthy wild horses has heartened advocates for the free-roaming mustang herds who fear the Bureau of Land Management wants to eliminate thousands to manage exploding herd populations.

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s action, on Nov. 20, followed a July vote by the House Appropriations Committee that would make it possible for the Interior Department’s BLM to euthanize healthy wild horses.

The final decision on the animals’ future will be made during negotiations between the House and the Senate to reach a consensus on the two versions of the spending bill for the Interior Department.

“The Senate’s vote is a very important step toward defeating the BLM’s plan to kill wild horses and burros,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign.

Rapid population growth of the herds has resulted in the BLM rounding up thousands of animals each year and placing them in holding facilities.

A recent Government Accountability Office review found that in 2016 the wild horse population, both on and off range, increased to about 113,000, more than double the 55,000 in 2000. As of March, 72,674 wild horses and burros lived on BLM-managed range land, a number the agency says is unsustainable and wreaks havoc on the land and the animals.

The BLM has 45,517 horses and burros in holding pens and off-range pasture, and the numbers continue to grow.

In an explanatory note about the committee’s vote on the Interior Department’s budget, the Senate committee said it is aware of the explosive population growth among the herds and that range conditions are inadequate to sustain wildlife habitat, wild horses and burros.

“The committee,” it said, “recognizes that bold steps must be taken to put this program on a path to sustainability.”

But the committee’s note added that it is “hopeful” that the BLM will use a variety of “humane and politically viable options that can collectively be implemented to drastically reduce on-range populations.”

Advocates say contraceptive drugs can halt galloping herd growth, but the BLM says the drugs are difficult to administer and require frequent reapplication.

Roy said the “appropriate” management levels that the BLM uses to determine how many horses should be on the range “impose extinction-level population limits on wild horses and burro populations.”

More in National Politics

  • Guy Brandenburg, from left, and Barbara ...
  • In this Monday, June 26, 2017, ...
  • A woman watches a TV screen ...