Equine slaughter resolution fails; wild horse issue could be an interim topic

A legislative committee has killed a joint resolution that would have asked Congress to allow equine slaughter and processing in the United States.

House Joint Resolution 3 cleared the Wyoming House of Representatives on third reading Feb. 8, but it later failed to pass the Senate Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee in a 2-2 vote.

“This is not what I feel is the most effective thing that the State of Wyoming can do,” Wyoming Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, said, explaining his “no” vote. “I don’t think sending resolutions back to our Congressional delegations that are well aware of the problem is going to make a darn bit of difference.”

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Education

If Wyoming is “really serious” about addressing wild and feral horse populations in the state, Hicks said it needs to turn instead to “science and lawsuits” – and “also education.”

He referred to comments the committee heard from Wyoming Stock Growers Association executive vice president Jim Magagna, who had asked the lawmakers to “include some real data” in HJ 3 if it progressed to the Wyoming Senate floor.

For example, Magagna said, the Bureau of Land Management did a “major horse gather” in southwest Wyoming about a year and a half ago, reducing the horse population in the area to 2,145.

By the next spring, however, that number had more than doubled, Magagna said, to 4,443.

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Those kinds of statistics show “how totally out of hand” wild horse populations have become, he said, urging the state to “give (this) widespread publicity.”

“The horse groups that are out there are constantly talking about the poor horses and all the care they need and how lovely they are,” Magagna said. “We need to counter that (by) getting out data about the damages they’re doing to the resources, the rangeland, the wildlife – as well as impacting our own industry.”

Interim topic

The strategies Hicks and Magagna outlined will require “time and effort,” Hicks said, suggesting the legislature should study the wild horse issue more closely after the current session ends.

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“What I would like to do is get this on the list of interim topics,” Hicks said. “Because resolutions aren’t going to get us anywhere. … We need to get after it, and that means spend some money and some time and some science. (I) would much rather see us spend our time doing that.”

The other “no” vote on the committee came from Wyoming Sen. John Kolb, R-Rock Springs, who said his decision had to do with the effectiveness of joint resolutions as well.

“Trying the same thing over and over again and it doesn’t work is probably something we ought not do anymore,” Kolb said. “We have an infestation in Sweetwater with wild horses – they’re thick as thieves and they bounce back quickly, and I do recognize it to be a very serious problem.

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“I look forward to doing something different and more substantive that (can) make a difference.”

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