Wild horse dispute prompts House vote

RENO -- The U.S. House approved an amendment on a voice vote Wednesday that would cut the Bureau of Land Management's budget by $2 million in protest of the agency's wild horse roundups that some critics say are too costly and others say are inhumane.

"It is just a drop in the bucket when you are talking about this overall cost problem we are facing, but it is one I hope will send a very strong message to BLM to treat these mustangs in a humane way," said Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., co-sponsor of the amendment.

During the past 10 years, the cost of BLM's wild horse management program has tripled to $64 million. About $37 million of that was spent last fiscal year on housing the gathered horses at BLM corrals and leased pastures , said Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va.

"Instead of using that to fix this broken wild horse management problem, they permanently removed another 10,000 wild horses and burros and put them into tax-funded long-term holding pens," he said.

BLM spokeswoman Celia Boddington said the agency had no comment .

Moran said there were once millions of wild horses in the West, but today there are more in captivity in BLM holding facilities -- about 40,000 -- than the 30,000-plus that roam the range.

Congress declared the horses protected in 1971.

Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., a supporter of the roundups whose family has a ranch, said horse protection advocates don't understand that overpopulated herds destroy fragile grass ecosystems to the detriment of livestock and other wildlife.