Sign On: Support California Assembly Joint Resolution 5 to protect wild horses & burros
Dear Chair Garcia, Vice-Chair Dahle and Esteemed Members of the Committee:

On behalf of the undersigned organizations, we respectfully ask for your support of Assembly Joint Resolution 5, introduced by Assemblywomen Rivas and Waldron to recognize the 50th anniversary of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (PL 92-195), urge the federal administration to declare a moratorium on wild horse and burro roundups, and return to the provisions of the original act.

Governor's Biodiversity Executive Order N-82-20

The resolution complements the Governor’s Executive Order N-82-20 signed in October 2020, which provides a way forward with the California Biodiversity Collaborative as the next generation of the State’s initiatives to protect California’s biodiversity and climate. Wild horses and burros contribute to this diversity by providing a wide range of ecological services such as the distribution of seeds and the removal and recycling of vegetation into organic nutrient rich material that builds soils and increases moisture retention. Protecting and restoring the equids is one of many steps toward finding nature-based solutions to our climate and extinction crises and can improve the way our public lands are managed to store carbon through the restoration of healthy ecosystems.

Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971

2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (“WFHBA”) of 1971. The act declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros “shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death” and that they are “an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.”

National Academies of Sciences Report

The National Academy of Sciences published “Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: A Way Forward.” The report found the Bureau of Land Management’s practices lack basic scientific principles that result in the removal of wild horses and burros rather than managing them in their legal herd areas. A moratorium would provide California an opportunity to apply scientific principles to assess the ecological benefits and role of wild horses and burros on our public lands.

Unsustainable/Destructive Practices

In 2013, the Modoc U.S. Forest Service revised its management plan to allow only between 200-400 wild horses to remain on their legal 236,000 acres, setting up the destruction of the last large USFS herd in the nation. Since 2016, over 2,200 Devil's Garden horses have been removed, despite litigation and legislative intervention. Presently, the BLM has announced plans to “zero out” nearly 1,000 wild burros from public lands near Death Valley, again counter to the intent of the 1971 act.

The removals are unsustainable in the larger context of climate change and biodiversity. The state will spend $1B this year alone for wildfire mitigation to counter the loss of the natural resource already available: the wild burros’ and horses’ fuel reduction of the annual grasses and brush. Solutions have been proposed which could save California taxpayers hundreds of millions per year.

Inhumane Practices

The removal and confinement practices are, unquestionably, inhumane. Slaughter of these animals is shunned by the public. California has consistently been a global leader on animal cruelty issues, with the recent passage of bans on gill nets, trapping and selling products from furbearers, puppy mills, abuse to wild animals in circuses, and farmed animals in restrictive enclosures. Yet our large, majestic wild horses and burros are forced into crowded holding pens; some don’t survive the trauma.

Taxpayer Benefits

In addition to the invaluable contribution the native herbivores provide by offsetting catastrophic wildfires and enriching the biosphere, taxpayers would save millions in program costs if removals ceased. Long term holding of horses and burros costs taxpayers $27M per year, and about $500M per average equid lifetime.

Contribution to Society

Today, as in 1971, the American public embraces wild horses and burros as living symbols of freedom and the American spirit. The declaration found in the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act remains unchanged:

"Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people; and that these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene."


Because of California’s strong leadership on the wild horse issue, the bipartisan support for this bill, as well as the additional rationales presented above, we urge the Committee to pass Assembly Joint Resolution 5. Thank you for your guidance and consideration.


René Rowland, Chair
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