CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Monday, February 6, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 306, the Corolla Wild Horses Protection Act, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for approval. H.R. 306 was introduced by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) on January 18, 2011, and was referred to the Natural Resources Committee. On October 5, 2011, a mark-up was held and the bill was reported, as amended, by voice vote.
H.R. 306 would require the Secretary of the Interior to enter into an agreement with the Corolla Wild Horse Fund (a nonprofit corporation established under the laws of the State of North Carolina), the County of Currituck, North Carolina, and the State of North Carolina in order to provide for management of free-roaming wild horses in and around the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge.
The agreement would cap the herd size in and around the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge to 130 horses and would specify that the costs of managing the herd would be covered by the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. In addition, the agreement would be required to provide for cost-effective management of the horses while ensuring that natural resources within the refuge are not adversely impacted and provide for introduction of a small number of free-roaming wild horses from the herd at Cape Lookout National Seashore.
According to House Report 112-310, the Corolla Wild Horse Fund was established in 1988 to support the wild Spanish mustangs and to educate the public about the history of the herd. Today, the herd is comprised of about 140 animals that live on approximately 7,544 acres of public and private lands located on the Currituck Outer Banks, North Carolina. In 2007, the latest Wild Horse Management Plan was approved with the concurrence of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, the County of Currituck, the State of North Carolina and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which administers the wildlife refuge. During the past four years, the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, the County of Currituck and the State of North Carolina have formally requested that the maximum herd size be increased and that a small number of mares from the nearby Shackleford Banks herd be introduced to restore diversity to the Corolla horses’ gene pool.
During the markup of this legislation, the Committee adopted an amendment offered by Congressman John Fleming that capped the number of wild horses at 130 and stipulated that the Corolla Wild Horse Fund would be legally responsible for periodic census and inspection of the health of the wild horses; coordinating the removal and placement of horses; administering a viable population control plan for the horses including adoptions, auctions, contraceptive fertility methods and other viable options; and maintaining the records of the horses. The intent of this amendment was to clarify that expenses related to wild horse management are to be incurred by the privately-funded Corolla Wild Horse Fund and not the Service. While this legislation will not eliminate the need for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to effectively administer the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge, including its desire to hire a new wildlife biologist, it does make it clear that in terms of the management of the Corolla Wild Horses, the responsibility will continue to reside with the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.
According to CBO, under H.R. 306 “the federal government would incur no significant additional costs to manage or mitigate the effects of horses on the refuge.” However, if the Corolla Wild Horse Fund was unable to maintain a population of less than 130 horses, “CBO expects that USFWS would incur costs totaling roughly $200,000 a year to manage the horses.”