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Trump Budget Allows Sale of Wild Horses05/25 05:53

   President Donald Trump's budget proposal calls for saving $10 million next 
year by selling wild horses captured throughout the West without the current 
requirement that buyers guarantee the animals won't be resold for slaughter.

   PALOMINO VALLEY, Nev. (AP) -- President Donald Trump's budget proposal calls 
for saving $10 million next year by selling wild horses captured throughout the 
West without the current requirement that buyers guarantee the animals won't be 
resold for slaughter.

   Wild horse advocates say the change would gut nearly a half-century of 
protection for wild horses --- an icon of the American West --- and could send 
thousands of free-roaming mustangs to foreign slaughterhouses for processing as 
food.

   They say the Trump administration is kowtowing to livestock interests who 
don't want the region's estimated 59,000 mustangs competing for precious forage 
across more than 40,000 square miles (103,600 sq. kilometers) of rangeland in 
10 states managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

   The budget proposal marks the latest skirmish in the decades-old controversy 
pitting ranchers and rural communities against groups that want to protect the 
horses from Colorado to California.

   "This is simply a way to placate a very well-funded and vocal livestock 
lobby," Laura Leigh, president of the nonprofit protection group Wild Horse 
Education, said about the budget proposal.

   The National Cattlemen's Beef Association and other interests have been 
urging BLM for years to allow sales of wild horses for slaughter to free up 
room in overcrowded government corrals for the capture of more animals.

   Doug Busselman, executive vice president of the Nevada Farm Bureau, blamed 
the stalemate on the "emotional and anti-management interests who have built 
their business models on preventing rational and responsible actions while 
enhancing their fundraising through misinformation."

   Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama also grappled with 
the spiraling costs of managing the nearly 60,000 horses on the range and 
another 45,000 currently kept in U.S. holding pens and contracted private 
pastures.

   Over the past eight years, BLM's wild horse budget has more than doubled --- 
from $36.2 million in 2008 to $80.4 million in 2017.

   Trump's budget anticipates the $10 million savings would come through a 
reduction in the cost of containing and feeding the animals. The savings also 
would include cutbacks involving roundups and contraception programs.

   The 1971 Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act permits the sale of older, 
unadoptable animals. But for years, Congress has approved budget language 
specifically outlawing the sale of any wild horses for slaughter.

   Horse slaughterhouses are prohibited in the U.S. but legal in many other 
countries, including Canada, Mexico and parts of Europe where horse meat is 
considered a delicacy.

   Then-BLM Director Neil Kornze said a year ago that the horses represented a 
$1 billion budget problem for his agency because it costs $50 million to round 
up and house every 10,000 horses over their lifetime.

   Still, he said the agency had no intention of reversing the long-standing 
policy.

   However, the Trump administration wants a change, saying through the BLM 
that the "current program is unsustainable and a new approach is needed, 
particularly when overall federal funding is so constrained."

   It says the budget would allow the agency to manage the wild horse program 
in a more cost-effective manner, "including the ability to conduct sales 
without limitation."

   BLM rounded up more than 7,000 horses in 2012, but only about 3,000 in each 
of the past two years due primarily to budget constraints.

   As of March, BLM estimated that more than half of the horses roaming the 
range were in Nevada (34,780). An additional 13,191 burros were on the range--- 
about half in Arizona.

   The BLM asserts that U.S. rangeland can sustain fewer than 27,000 horses and 
burros.

   "The original intent of the act was to make sure those animals had a healthy 
presence on the range, but also that they be kept at a number that is 
sustainable," said Ethan Lane, executive director of the National Cattlemen's 
public lands council. "You have horses starving to death ... and irreversible 
damage to western rangelands."

   The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said Trump's 
budget proposal was shocking.

   "Wild horses can and should be humanely managed on-range using simple 
fertility control, yet the BLM would rather make these innocent animals pay for 
draconian budget cuts with their very lives," ASPCA President Matt Bershadker 
said.

   Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign, said 
the plan could put the horses on the brink of extinction.

   "America can't be great if these national symbols of freedom are destroyed," 
she said.


(KA)

 
 
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