Bill to Restore Protection of American Icon Passes House Natural Resources Committee

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Washington, D.C. -- The Restoring Our American Mustangs Act (H.R. 1018) today passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee. Known as the ROAM Act, the bill was introduced by Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV) and National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) earlier this year. It is intended to restore protections for America’s wild horses and burros that were stripped out of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act in recent years.

"Protection and management of the wild horses and burros on our public lands is an important federal responsibility - but it is clear that the federal government has not been adequately meeting that responsibility," said Chairman Rahall (D-WV). "This legislation will remedy many of the critical lapses that are taking place under the 1971 Act by invoking a number of commonsense measures, including preventing the BLM from resorting to slaughter as a solution for management."

Originally intended to prevent the sale of America’s wild horses and burros for commercial purposes, a key provision of the original 1971 Act was gutted when then Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) attached a midnight rider to an Omnibus spending bill in 2004 that instructed the Bureau of Land Management to sell horses "without limitation." In reality, this meant that the captured animals were destined for livestock auctions where they would be purchased for slaughter.

"Ever since the Burns rider became law it's been a game of constant vigilance for the American public and members of Congress. The simple and right thing to do is to restore this provision while revamping and improving the larger statute. Not only will the ROAM Act ensure that our mustangs and burros are once again protected from slaughter, but it seeks to reclaim land - some 19 million acres - taken away from these magnificent animals since the 1971 Act was signed into law," said Chris Heyde, Deputy Director of Government and Legal Affairs for the Animal Welfare Institute. "The Animal Welfare Institute is immensely grateful to Chairman Rahall and Chairman Grijalva for their leadership on this responsible legislation."

At a time when there are nearly as many wild horses and burros in captivity as there are in the wild, the legislation has met with enthusiasm from the public and within the humane and wild horse advocacy community. Passage of the ROAM Act will mean that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which currently has primary authority for managing these animals, must focus on managing them as an integral part of the thriving natural ecological balance.

"It is imperative that we protect and preserve America's wild horses as a 'living national treasure,'" said Subcommittee Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva. "The antiquated policies concerning these magnificent creatures must be change to reflect what Americans want for these horses today."

The ROAM Act now moves to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

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