At 3pm on the 22nd of May (Saturday), the Sierra Club Board of Directors voted unanimously to adopt a new policy on wild horses and burros. The new policy was introduced by Ross Macfarlane, the Club’s Vice President for Conservation. He explained that this policy was one of the more difficult policies that absorbed more time for the Club’s Conservation Policy Committee than any other policy in his memory. Vice President Macfarlane named and gave thanks to the many staff and volunteers and two grassroots teams that worked several years on this policy. Vice President Macfarlane then asked if anyone wished to discuss this policy prior to voting. No one did. The call for “All in favor” led to each Director raising her or his hand over the next 15 seconds. Then, the policy was passed by the Board replacing other existing policies on wild horses and burros.
A last minute change recommended by the Wild & Endangered Species Activist Team was included. The policy ends with this new text, “To protect wild horses and burros from injury and stress, the use of motorized vehicles (land/air) for roundups should be avoided whenever possible.”
by Jim Catlin
Wild Horse and Burro Policy
April 22, 2021
- The Sierra Club recognizes that in 1971 Congress passed the Wild and Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act.
- On federal lands where wild horses and burros are present and allowed, wild horses and burros should be managed so that other wildlife and ecosystem values are fully protected. Range and riparian areas should be restored and maintained in an excellent ecological condition. Managers should reestablish the conditions necessary to support native wildlife and protect native ecosystems.
- Wild horse and burro management should be based on current science. The scientific process should be supported by scientists independent of agencies, without conflicts of interest, and subject to a transparent peer review that includes the complete range of significant expertise.
- In Wild Horse and Burro Herd Management Areas and Territories, and any other federal public lands designated for wild horse and burro use, livestock should be eliminated to avoid overgrazing and degradation of wildlife habitat, riparian areas and water quality.
- Where wild horses are permitted but have been removed to accommodate livestock grazing, this should be reversed while still meeting the requirement that wild horse and burro populations and livestock in these designated areas be managed to promote a recovery of native flora, native fauna and native ecosystems, including sensitive biological soil crusts. Federal management should assure that the most sensitive ecological factors are not damaged. Native predator populations should be allowed to thrive to play their role in preying on both native wildlife and introduced animals.
- Federal agencies should also promptly use their discretion and authority, where necessary and after environmental analysis (NEPA), public input, and compliance with applicable environmental laws, to reduce or eliminate livestock, and reduce burro or wild horse grazing in Herd Management Areas or Territories where such grazing is causing damage to native ecosystems, including biological soil crusts, native flora, native fauna, riparian areas, wetlands area, water quality, and cultural sites.
- The Sierra Club supports voluntary livestock grazing permit retirement as one way to reduce livestock overgrazing and competition with wildlife.
- On Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands in the western US, livestock substantially outnumber wild horses and burros, and livestock grazing occurs across large areas of federal lands where no wild horses and burros are permitted. This livestock grazing often causes significant impacts to native habitats and wildlife. In recognition of this, reducing livestock grazing levels is an important priority across federal lands overall to protect and restore the natural ecosystems to support the native wildlife resources. Management on federal lands may include totally eliminating livestock where the land and habitat cannot accommodate grazing by these animals. This policy supplements and does not replace existing Sierra Club policy addressing Grazing on Public Lands.
- The Sierra Club supports the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service to manage their lands in order to preserve ecological integrity, and cultural and historical authenticity. Further, the Sierra Club supports National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service actions to remove unauthorized wild horses and burros by humane means, where they are deemed undesirable by environmental review and management direction.
- All activities concerning wild horse or burro management including population reductions and fertility control should be conducted in a manner that ensures humane animal treatment. To protect wild horses and burros from injury and stress, the use of motorized vehicles (land/air) for roundups should be avoided whenever possible.