A report in the Reno Gazette Journal noted “a Senate panel has approved $35 million for a new wild horse initiative backed by animal welfare groups and the livestock industry but condemned by the largest mustang protection coalition that says it would put the free-roaming animals on a path to extinction.”

On Sept. 26, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved allocating $35 million to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) wild horse and burro program that is supported by an unprecedented alliance including the Humane Society of the United States, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the American Farm Bureau.

It’s not certain when the full Senate will consider the measure.

Favorable comments from the alliance say the program “would help to ensure elimination of the threat to thousands of free-roaming horses as well as downsizing herds primarily through expanded fertility control on the range.”

Conversely, critics say the program “drops the long-held opposition to the capture of mustangs across 10 western states and could allow for sterilization of mares,” an issue protection groups consider crucial. 

The article quoted Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign, as saying, “It’s a betrayal of America’s wild horses by the nation’s largest animal welfare groups.”

The article also noted the BLM director’s report that the Trump administration will not pursue lethal measures such as euthanasia or selling horses for slaughter.

An estimated 88,000 wild horses are believed to be free-roaming the public rangelands in the 10 western states. This is more than three times the number the BLM says the land can support.

Horse advocates “have argued the animals must be permitted to roam the range of federally protected management areas established by the Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971.”

Other critics claim the new program is just a “pathway to extinction” because it sets eventual population targets to 27,000 – the total number when federal protection laws were first enacted in the 1960s.

The alliance of the large animal welfare groups have countered by saying roundups in densely populated areas are critical because the areas cannot sustain the large herd numbers that exist now.

Horses already in short-term holding corrals would be moved to “larger, cost- effective, humane pastures.”