Edited Release — Today, a diverse coalition of more than 90 groups and 1,100 individuals joined together in a letter calling on President Joe Biden to impose an immediate moratorium on helicopter roundups of the nation’s beleaguered wild horses and burros living on federal lands across the American West. The letter comes on the heels of an announcement that actress Katherine Heigl has joined the effort to save the Onaqui horses of Utah.
The letter sent to the President today comes as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) prepares for mass roundups of some of the nation’s most iconic herds. The BLM is seeking to remove large numbers of the Onaqui horses of Utah, the Sand Wash Basin horses of Colorado, and over 3,550 horses across five Herd Management Areas (HMA) in Wyoming.
While the agency claims there is insufficient forage for wild horses and burros, the agency is taking no action to reduce livestock grazing in those area despite a request sent by more than 70 groups sent to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland last month. Haaland subsequently testified on April 20th before the U.S. House Appropriations Committee that President Biden’s Dept. of Interior is “in agreement with the plan of the previous Administration,” that rippled seismic waves of disappointment across the country.
“We’re going to fight harder than ever before to stop the BLM’s draconian helicopter roundups and save our iconic American wild horses and burros,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action who was recently recognized by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, II for his work to protect horses. “So many groups are deeply disappointed that President Biden is allowing the mass roundup plans from the prior Administration to continue but know it’s not too late for a course correction that can save the majestic equines whose backs this country was built upon.”
“For too long the federal government has ignored the American public’s pleas for humane management of our wild horses and burros, instead hewing to the livestock industry’s demands for inhumane helicopter roundups and removals,” said Scott Beckstead, director of campaigns for the Center for A Humane Economy. “President Biden should immediately halt the helicopter roundups and order his Department of Interior to prioritize an approach that leaves our herds wild and free on our public lands where they belong.”
“The Biden Administration should halt all these planned helicopter-driven gathers until new Appropriate Management Levels for all horses and burro populations on BLM HMAs and Forest Service WHTs can be determined in the absence of cattle and sheep grazing,” said environmental advocate Todd Shuman, a key leader in the coalition.
“We believe the BLM has largely abandoned its statutory mandate to manage these cherished national icons in a manner that is humane and balanced,” wrote the coalition. “Instead, the BLM continues to weave a false narrative that blames roughly 100,000 wild horses and burros for degrading public rangelands, ignoring the cumulative impacts of millions of privately owned cattle and sheep.”
The letter suggests the BLM should only engage in roundups when emergency conditions pose threats to the health and safety of wild horses and burros; or where wild equids threaten endangered or vulnerable wildlife species. In addition, it calls for an executive order to bar the agency from permanent sterilization of wild horses and burros and calls for those same measures to be undertaken by the U.S. Forest Service for wild herds living on national forest land.
Animal Wellness Action (Action) is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) organization with a mission of helping animals by promoting legal standards forbidding cruelty. We champion causes that alleviate the suffering of companion animals, farm animals, and wildlife. We advocate for policies to stop dogfighting and cockfighting and other forms of malicious cruelty and to confront factory farming and other systemic forms of animal exploitation. To prevent cruelty, we promote enacting good public policies, and we work to enforce those policies. To enact good laws, we must elect good lawmakers, and that’s why we remind voters which candidates care about our issues and which ones don’t. We believe helping animals helps us all.
The Animal Wellness Foundation (Foundation) is a Los Angeles-based private charitable organization with a mission of helping animals by making veterinary care available to everyone with a pet, regardless of economic ability. We organize rescue efforts and medical services for dogs and cats in need and help homeless pets find a loving caregiver. We are advocates for getting veterinarians to the front lines of the animal welfare movement; promoting responsible pet ownership; and vaccinating animals against infectious diseases such as distemper. We also support policies that prevent animal cruelty and that alleviate suffering. We believe helping animals helps us all.
The Center for a Humane Economy (“the Center”) is a non-profit organization that focuses on influencing the conduct of corporations to forge a humane economic order. The first organization of its kind in the animal protection movement, the Center encourages businesses to honor their social responsibilities in a culture where consumers, investors, and other key stakeholders abhor cruelty and the degradation of the environment and embrace innovation as a means of eliminating both.