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Wild horse bill faces uncertainty in Senate

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Modified: July 18, 2009 at 12:22 am •  Published: July 18, 2009
WASHINGTON — Galloping to the aid of the nation’s wild horses and burros, the House voted Friday to rescue them from the possibility of a government-sponsored slaughter and give them millions more acres to roam.

But the effort may get penned up in the Senate.

The bill passed the House, 239-185, with Republican opponents arguing that it underscored wrongheaded Democratic priorities by focusing on animals instead of people.

An estimated 36,000 wild horses and burros live in 10 Western states. Federal officials estimate that’s about 9,400 more than can exist in balance with other rangeland resources. Off the range, more than 31,000 other wild horses and burros are cared for on private land.

The plan aims to reduce the number of animals kept in holding pens awaiting adoption and to reduce the stress on land currently set aside for them. It would give the government authority to establish wild horse sanctuaries on nonfederal lands. It also would attempt to bolster an adoption program and sterilize more animals.

Republicans dismissed the measure as welfare for horses. House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said debating the bill was an insult to people looking for work and small businesses trying to keep their doors open.

Meanwhile, no comparable bill has been sponsored in the Senate.

Bill would cost $200M in 5 years
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that enacting the Restore Our American Mustangs Act would cost about $200 million over the next five years. Today, wild herds roam over about 33 million acres; under the bill, the Bureau of Land Management would need to find an additional 20 million acres, officials said.

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