A Local Approach to Wild Horses
The most valuable life lessons I learned at an early age came from growing up on a dairy farm in Cache Valley. There, my father taught me the value of hard work, education, and good citizenship. I also gained a love and respect for the animals we worked with daily. I still enjoy saddling up a horse for a ride in the mountains with my friends.
In recent years, we've seen the wild horse and burro population skyrocket – It's estimated that there are now 49,000 roaming in the western states. In addition, there are nearly 50,000 cared for at short-term corrals and long-term pastures. To put that number in perspective, the appropriate management level set by the Interior Department in the Wild Horse and Burro Act is 22,500 animals!
An increased wild horse and burro population wouldn't be a bad thing, except that the out of control population growth is destroying the health of our rangeland, which harms these beautiful animals. Native plant and animal species are being over-grazed and trampled, and the overpopulation of horses and burros are causing thousands to suffer from starvation and a lack of sufficient water. In addition to hurting the environment, the growing wild horse population is also becoming economically destructive to Western cattlemen who graze their herds on this land.
For many reasons, the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has failed to provide a solution for this situation. I had a meeting with BLM Director Neil Kornze, where he spoke of long-term plans that would reduce the size of the horse and burro herds over a 10 year period. In 5 years the herds will at least double. In 10 years they will triple. This is unacceptable for everyone involved.
Fortunately, there is a solution.
Because each state deals with a different set of circumstances, the care and oversight of these animals should be managed by the individual states. States and tribes have effectively managed wildlife within their borders for generations and I'm confident that they can also attain a safe, practical, and cost effective solution to manage the unsustainable population levels of the horse and burros. A local approach would also allow for more partnerships between landowners, ranchers and humanitarian groups to provide better oversight and create a localized approach to each population and rangeland.
Last year, I introduced The Wild Horse Oversight Act of 2014, which would give states and local tribes the option to manage the herds within their jurisdiction. The legislation would allow for interstate partnerships to be formed, as well as partnerships between ranchers, horse and burro advocacy groups or any other interested organizations. I intend to propose this bill again this year. Our local legislators have also found this matter to be of vital importance. State Senator Evan J. Vickers recently proposed H. Res. 7 to the State Legislature, which would allow the State and the Governor to create a management plan for these animals.
I will continue to use my position as a member of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee to work with multiple stakeholders to create a viable solution to this problem. By working with the BLM, Ranchers, and wild-horse advocates, we ultimately hope to create an effective solution -- taking the politics and the emotion out of the issue to produce a humane, economic and ecologically sound solution.