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, a Republican from Indiana, introduced what came to be known as the Burton Amendment in the US House of Representatives this month. It cuts the BLM's funds to maintain wild horses in captivity. And it passed today.
Did you feel the earth shake this afternoon? At 3:03 p.m., to be exact? That was the moment when the US House of Representatives voted to approve what has come to be known as The Burton Amendment, or, as it says in the Congressional Record: An amendment numbered 30 printed in the Congressional Record to reduce funding for the Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Management of Lands and Resources by $2 million and apply the amount to the deficit reduction account.
In other words: Cut $2 million from the land and resources management fund, out of which the money comes to pay for the horses in the holding pens. This action won't stop roundups, won't establish sanctuaries and won't do anything to improve the overall wild horse situation; the idea is to get the BLM's attention and hopefully move it toward a different solution for managing the horses.
It's hard to say whether the Republican majority voted in favor of the amendment because they want the BLM to do better by the horses or if they simply wanted to cut the budget. We'll never know, but the amendment passed, after some debate.
The Congressional Record for February 16 is not available yet, but CNN is reporting that there was discussion of recommending that the BLM use birth control on the wild horses in the American West rather than to keep adding to the horses held in pens.
The equine contraception argument was brought up by Representative Jim Moran, a Democrat from Virginia. Contraception has been used in the wild horse herds on a limited basis. It is controversial, since it affects behavior and herd dynamics--in other words, making life for wild horses on the range unnatural. This is unacceptable to come critics. The contraception vaccine requires annual repeat administration (or some other time-frame deemed effective), so some sort of roundups would still be necessary if wider use of contraception became BLM policy.
Do you think the Burton Amendment will be a catalyst for change? Or is it possible that the horses can be the victims in a political struggle for power over millions of dollars in funding?
As if there wasn't enough on the table, the dissenting voice on record was that of Representative Cynthia Lummis, a Republican from Wyoming, who is quoted by CNN as having said: "It is this Congress that has caused the problems by saying we cannot slaughter horses. Yet, we're not supposed to keep them in pens. We're supposed to let them overgraze the West," Lummis said. "When the gentlepeople east of the Mississippi will take these excess horses into their back yards, I will support this amendment."
Lummis then offered her own amendment to cut the land acquisition budget of the BLM by $2,750,000, but that is an area unrelated to wild horses.
The Burton Amendment is related to HR 1, which needs to be approved by the Senate and signed by President Obama before any real threat to the BLM is felt. Today's action made a lot of noise and no doubt the BLM is paying attention to what goes on.
Jodi Jacobsen, editor-in-chief of Reproductive Health Reality Check, had this comment on her blog: "During a month in which the anti-choice Republican and Tea Party majority in Congress and in many states have made it their priority mission to eliminate access to contraception for women here and abroad, and on the very same day that the House planned to vote to take away birth control for women living in poverty in the US and eliminate funding for international family planning, you will be happy to know that there is at least one group the GOP believes deserves access to contraception. Wild horses."
It should be noted that, if CNN's account is correct, Congressional support for wild horse contraception was a Democrat's idea. And Moran didn't mention how the BLM was supposed to pay for it.