December 9 was a night to remember for AWHC thanks to the success of our 5th Annual Stay Wild event in Denver! Colorado Governor Jared Polis and First Gentleman Marlon Reis headlined the VIP guest list, which also included other state political leaders and leaders in the wild horse advocacy and business communities.
The event was held at Scott Wilson’s Gallery 6 in Denver’s art district. Scott is an award-winning wildlife and landscape photographer and our very own Director of Strategy and Marketing.
The event provided a platform to announce an exciting political development: A bill to be introduced by State Senator Joann Ginal and State Representative Monica Duran to designate the wild mustang as the official state horse of Colorado!
The night was filled with great conversation about how we can work to protect these magnificent animals, Scott’s powerful photography featuring some of Colorado’s very own wild mustangs, an amazing film preview, and moving speeches.
“I care for these wild, untamed beauties … and believe that to see wild horses as a problem to be solved is wrong. We need to work toward creative solutions to give wild horses the dignity and respect they deserve.”
— Colorado First Gentleman Marlon Reis
The governor – a longtime advocate for wild horse protection – highlighted his belief that Colorado is well positioned to be a leader in wild horse management and a model for the West.
As the dust settles on the Fiscal Year 2020 spending agreement reached by Congress this week, we wanted you to know that the fight is far from over and that there will be ample opportunities for us to defend wild horses and burros in the New Year.
We also want to highlight two significant positives that were included in the spending bill that are a direct result of your advocacy and leadership from key officials in Congress.
Congress attached strings to the $21 million budget increase for the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program
The spending bill states that the additional funding will not be made available until 60 days after BLM submits a report to Congress detailing its plan for future wild horse management. This is a direct result of alarm bells raised by House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raul Grijalva, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Chair Deb Haaland and ten of their colleagues about increasing the agency’s budget by nearly 30% without following proper oversight channels.
While we remain disappointed that Congress awarded the BLM millions more tax dollars without strict requirements to prevent BLM from using all the funds to round up and sterilize wild horses, this new provision is a significant improvement over previous versions of the spending bill. It gives the House committee with oversight over the BLM — the Natural Resources Committee — a chance to scrutinize the plan and, potentially, take steps to rein in the BLM, before funding is authorized.
Huge thanks for this major development goes to Grijalva, Haaland, Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler, and their colleagues who formed this bipartisan effort to protect our wild horses and burros by signing a letter to request proper oversight.
Forest Service Wild Horse and Burro Slaughter Ban
Another positive development in the FY 2020 spending bill is language that prohibits the U.S. Forest Service from destroying healthy wild horses and burros and selling them for slaughter. Previously, Congress prohibited the BLM from lethal management of wild horses and burros, but the ban did not extend to the Forest Service, which manages a much smaller but still significant number of federally-protected wild horses and burros in the West.
The expanded prohibition is a direct response to the Forest Service’s threat to sell California wild horses for slaughter and a result of the leadership of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein — a long time champion of horse welfare — and U.S. Reps. Ted Lieu, Dina Titus, Grijalva, and California State Assemblymember Todd Gloria who worked with AWHC to pass legislation to improve protections for California’s horses from slaughter.
Everyone who contacted their elected officials over this past year to seek protections for our cherished wild horses and burros should take a moment to appreciate the fact that our grassroots advocacy is working. Although this work is a marathon, not a sprint, and there are disappointments along the way, we are making progress on the road to saving America’s iconic wild herds.
So, as we fire up our legislative and legal teams for the challenges ahead, we want to thank you for staying strong and committed. You are the key ingredient to our successful advocacy for our wild horses and burros, and together, we remain the last line of defense between these beloved animals and their destruction.