The Latest: Appropriations and Wild Horses

You are here

AWHC Government Relations

(June 18, 2019) If you've followed the plight of wild horses and burros in the past, then you almost certainly know the importance of Congress's yearly "appropriations" bills. For the uninitiated, appropriations bills both fund government operations and contain policy riders that affect how the government carries out its mission throughout the year. Virtually every year, for instance, Congress has protected wild horses from being sold for slaughter with a policy rider prohibiting the practice. 

This year however, Congress is considering new policy riders. Democrats in the House of Representatives are set to move their chamber's spending vision for most of the federal government this week, aiming to pass nine of the 12 appropriations bills needed to fund the federal government in fiscal year 2020. However, even though the fiscal year begins on October 1, 2019, Congress has yet to agree on budget caps--the total amount Congress intends to spend across all programs. Instead, the House and Senate are forging ahead with their funding bills without a deal.

In the House, the two packages, known as “minibuses,” are slated to be finished this week. The House will take up two funding packages: a roughly $1 trillion package that includes labor, health and human services, education, defense, state, foreign operations and energy and water development; and a separate $383 billion package that includes commerce, justice, science, agriculture, rural development, the Food and Drug Administration, interior, environment, military construction, veterans affairs, transportation, and housing and urban development. 

Of interest to AWHC members and anyone who cares about the welfare of wild mustangs, the Interior & Environment title funds the Wild Horse and Burro Program in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and contains policy language important to the future of wild horses on public lands in the west. Our review of the House legislation indicates it contains one very good provision--an extension of the so-called slaughter prohibition to wild horses on U.S. Forest Service land, and one potentially catastrophic provision--a risky scheme to remove enough horses from the range to return populations to extinction levels for the benefit of ranchers. 

The House should begin voting on amendments to the Interior and Environment section later this week, followed by passage on Thursday. Because Republicans control the Senate and Democrats the House, there is less agreement than usual about the total funding levels and policy provisions included in the bills. The two sets of bills may be wildly different but must be reconciled before they become law. It is critical that the Senate passes a bill which protects wild horses and burros better than the House has done. 
 
This is why it's so crucial that you get involved to help convince key senators like Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Tom Udall (D-NM), Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to oppose the House's risky scheme for BLM. The wild horses and burros of the west deserve a better plan than one cooked up in a back room by the cattle ranchers and corporate farmers who just want government subsidized grazing rights. It may be too late to change the House's plan, but it's exactly the right time for the Senate to demand a better plan for America's iconic wild horses. 
 
Please get involved. Our team is on Capitol Hill every day talking to lawmakers and fighting for the right of wild horses to roam the range freely, but we can't continue our success without the support of activists like you calling your Senator and asking them to fight for horses too. Please call Congress and ask them to oppose corporate farming's sweetheart deal in the House, and if you can, pitch in to help us make the case directly in Washington. The west could use more horses and fewer government giveaways to billionaires.