In February 2019, Congress instructed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to come up with a solution for the Wild Horse Crisis. 2018 was the year when crisis status was declared. According to the BLM, there were 82,000 wild horses on the range, or 55,000 over-AML (of ~27,000). BLM policy would have the “surplus” horses rounded up by helicopter and removed from the range, but there was a problem. After years of “kicking the can down the road”, it finally hit the wall.
What distinguished 2018 from the rest is that it was the year the holding facilities declared themselves at full capacity (of ~47,000), i.e., NO VACANCY. The question, as if totally unexpected, suddenly loomed large – where to put the 55,000 “”over-AML” horses after rounding them up? There was only one glaring answer – send them to slaughter.
It is a well-known and long established fact, however, that the vast majority (80%) of Americans passionately oppose horse slaughter, to the point of having shut down all slaughterhouses in the US. Thus the Wild Horse Crisis became a congressional crisis of sorts, and thus, the February 2019 congressional demand for BLM to come up with a solution, to which the BLM did not immediately respond.
In April 2019, the BLM, somewhat sheepishly, revealed a plan called “The Path Forward”, orchestrated by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), ASPCA, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and the so-called “American Mustang Foundation”, hereafter referred to as the HSUS/ASPCA PLAN. This ill-conceived and what many consider terrible plan was in fact a huge compromise put together piece-meal by a small group of “stakeholders” – special interest groups centered principally upon ranching and mining. This package pleases everyone in that room, but almost no one beyond its closed doors.
Basically, it aims to go down in “10 years to AML” by massive annual roundups of up to 20,000 horses per year for a decade, while imposing “aggressive” population control on the rest, apparently not excluding surgical sterilization which the vast majority of the public also oppose. But, the problem remains – where to put the <20,000 horses rounded up from year to year. “No problem, just raise the budget and build more holding facilities, idiot.” But at what cost? $20 million for helicopter roundup, and $30 million for building and running more holding facilities, totaling $50 million in additional funding over and above the regular BLM budget of $80 million, per year.
In May, an attempt was made by congressman Chris Stewart (R-UT) to fast-track the HSUS/ASPCA PLAN into new BLM policy immediately or sooner. Fortunately, the seriously disappointing plan encountered nothing but condemnation in the court of public opinion, where it is currently stalled. Meanwhile, the problem remains critical, and unsolved, and worsening, with “no alternative solution in sight”.
Enter the MARR PLAN. On February 14, 2019, the new website known now as www.MARR-PLAN.org was launched, in which was advanced an outside-the-box solution hailed as “brilliant” from the start. On March 7, the informal MARR PLAN Petition (www.change.org/p/marr-plan) was started, basically to gauge public response, which has garnered over 10,000 signatures to date, and hundreds of highly supportive comments. Unfortunately, at this juncture, the Congress and the BLM have paid it no heed.
In contrast to the HSUS/ASPCA Plan, the MARR PLAN requires no roundup of on range horses, will return all captive wild horses back on range, and will SAVE the BLM, and the public, upwards of $70 million by halting helicopter roundup and closing all holding facilities. All the BLM will need is to reduce the cattle population by a mere 12%, which will raise the wild horse AML to 150,000, with an easily manageable standing population of ~140,000 by means of mild maintenance immuno-contraception.
To pacify the ranchers thus affected, the MARR PLAN suggests placing a portion of the displaced cattle into the holding pastures used hitherto for wild horses, which would be vacated after the captive wild horses have been returned to the wild. The remainder could be placed into private grazing, with a one time subsidy to be agreed upon between the BLM and the affected ranchers. Or not. BLM also has the option of raising the grazing fee by 12% to offset the “loss of revenue”.
In closing, here is a side-by-side, point-by-point, direct comparison between the HSUS-ASPCA PLAN and the MARR PLAN:
Thank you for your attention.
Anthony Marr, Founder & President
MARR PLAN Action Committee (MPAC)