Senator Patty Murray’s Position on Protection for Wild Horses: Non-committal

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Will these American icons survive pressure by ranchers? (Photo by JeremyOK, CC license)

“America’s horses are under attack by commercial interests, which are supported and aligned with the BLM, a governmental agency that hides behind vague statutory language and turns words like “protect” and “preserve” into “capture,” “imprison,” and “kill.” It must be emphasized that the horses and burros live on public lands, dedicated by the federal government to the American people as a whole, because of their beauty and nature, and not because of their ability to support the business interests of a select few. This wholesale trading of America’s protected lands and desertion of the wild horses by the very agency that has been authorized and empowered to be their guardian is a betrayal not only to the horses who are being injured, captured and dying, but to the American people, who for over forty years have supported the protection of these animals.
It is antithetical to the very purpose of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act that the law adopted to keep the horses and burros on the ranges, free to be wild and to represent the American spirit, are progressively being killed, exported and removed so that moneyed interests can invade those lands. If the BLM has it its way, soon enough there will be no wild horses left, and the very reason for the law will disappear forever. It will be the final insult to the will and spirit of the American people when commerce conquers nature and the magic of wild horses ranging American public lands.” From The Wild Horse Freedom Federation – Please sign wild horse petitions such as this one: Nevada, Don’t Slaughter Wild Horses!

My letters to our representatives were among many sent by the Wild Horse Freedom Foundation and by Saving America’s Mustangs, protesting the continued maneuvering by ranchers and industry to remove horses from public lands, or to re-open slaughter houses. This was Senator Murray’s reply (no reply yet from Secretary Salazar,Director Abbey, Representative Larsen, or Senator Cantwell) – a form letter to be sure, but at least her office consistently responds to inquires.

Dear Ms. Calloway Whiting:
Thank you for contacting me to voice your concern about our nation’s wild horses and burros. I appreciate hearing from you.
As you may know, wild horses and burros on federal lands are protected under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (the Act) under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). Under the Act, the BLM and the USFS are responsible for taking inventory of federal horse and burro populations and to manage the population based on each range’s capacity.
Under the Act, the BLM and the USFS are authorized to destroy “old, sick, or lame animals” by the most humane means available. The agencies separate healthy horses and burros for private adoption and if adoption demand is low, the remaining healthy animals can be destroyed. However, the agencies have not exercised this option since 1982. During the 108th Congress, changes were enacted to the Act that allow the agencies to sell excess animals that are deemed too old or otherwise unable to be adopted.
In the 111th Congress, Senator Byrd (D-WV) introduced the Restore Our American Mustangs (ROAM) Act. This legislation would have prohibited the slaughter of wild horses and burros, unless the animal was terminally ill or fatally injured, and would have removed the authority to sell excess wild horses and burros. This legislation failed to reach the full Senate for consideration.
Throughout my Senate tenure, I have consistently supported efforts to protect animals from cruel and inhumane treatment. I know that for many people, horses provide wonderful companions and are an iconic symbol of our national culture and history. Should legislation related to wild horses and burros come before the full Senate for a vote during the 112th Congress, I will certainly keep your thoughts in mind.
Once again, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this issue. If you would like to know more about my work in the Senate, please sign up for my weekly update at Please do not hesitate to contact me with any additional concerns.
Patty Murray
United States Senator

If Senator Murray has a strong opinion on this issue, she is keeping it to herself…

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