04-29-09 New Horse and Burro Provisions Set Dangerous Precedent for America’s Public Lands
WASHINGTON – The Public Lands Council (PLC) sent a letter to the House Committee on Natural Resources today opposing H.R. 1018; also known as the Restoring Our American Mustangs (ROAM) Act.
“The ROAM Act is a drastic departure from our country’s proud tradition of allowing public access to federally-owned lands, and permitting multiple uses of those lands,” says Skye Krebs, President of PLC and rancher from Ione, Ore. “Western ranchers rely on public lands to graze their cattle. The ROAM Act would prevent that by setting aside land exclusively for wild horses.”
Public lands are utilized by diverse groups including ranchers, sportsmen, and nature enthusiasts. The ROAM Act would prohibit any access to lands designated as horse sanctuaries. Additionally, the ROAM Act would make it more difficult for the Secretary of the Interior to appropriately manage wild horse populations on public lands by making it more costly to do so.
The text of the letter—sent to Committee Chairman Nick Rahall and Ranking Member Doc Hastings—follows:
“HR 1018, Restoring Our American Mustangs (ROAM) Act, would radically restructure public land management, allowing for multiple use to be set aside, therefore, PLC strongly opposes the legislation. It sets a dangerous precedent to move away from a balanced multiple use management of our public lands.
The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (HBA) called for the management of horses in the places where they then existed. HBA anticipated that horse populations would be coordinated with other multiple uses by requiring the Secretary to manage horse populations to the appropriate management level.
HR 1018 overturns this effort to balance competing uses of public lands. It authorizes the Secretary to designate additional range on public lands as sanctuaries exclusively for horses following consultation with the wildlife agency of the affected state. Multiple use would be displaced in these newly designated areas.
HR 1018 makes it harder for the Secretary to maintain a sustainable population of horses both by imposing additional costs on administration and by limiting tools needed to manage populations. Examples include a bar on the use of helicopters or any other airborne device to gather horses. It is cost-prohibitive to gather horses solely by people working on the ground. The bill also bars keeping horses in holding facilities for more than 6 months. This is a laudable goal that simply departs from the period of time BLM is often forced to keep horses in holding facilities. The cost of alternative arrangements to holding facilities is both unknown and undoubtedly greater than would be the cost of continuing to use holding facilities in the present manner. The bill also imposes additional hurdles on the adoption of horses, increasing the cost of an already underutilized means of caring for the horses.
HR 1018 allows for limitless expansion of wild horse and burro range and the designation of exclusive use areas for the animals. The bill removes the ability to remove excess animals by destruction or sale and makes the adoption process very time consuming. Additionally, it makes any transportation for processing criminal.
The current horse and burro program is underfunded and much of the range is overpopulated with little demand for adoption of excess animals. It is inhumane to allow overpopulation on designated range and HR 1018 is not the solution. The bill radically overturns longstanding management of public lands.
We thank you for your consideration of Western Ranchers and of a balanced multiple use management approach to our Nation’s public lands.”