SANTA FE-The Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife today announced it has formalized an agreement with the Navajo Nation to develop a comprehensive and humane program to manage the thousands of free-roaming horses on the reservation. The ultimate goal of the agreement is to develop alternatives to transporting the horses to slaughter facilities.
Former New Mexico Governor and Foundation co-founder Bill Richardson negotiated the agreement with Navajo President Ben Shelly.
"This historic agreement is a great first step in our efforts to not only protect these horses, but to find humane and long-term solutions that are in the best interest of the Navajo people and their land," Governor Richardson said. "I commend President Shelly for his commitment to this issue, and we look forward to getting right to work."
"Working together to resolve challenges is our approach as we work with Governor Richardson and his Foundation. They will give us funding and find more resources to reverse the population of feral horses," President Shelly said. "We will continue to treat these animals humanely and implement the best solutions to our rangeland issues. "We thank Governor Richardson and the Foundation for working with the Navajo Nation in this most important effort."
The two men have initialed the agreement, allowing work to begin, and hope to hold a formal signing ceremony with all involved parties in the near future.
"I also want to thank the country's top animal protection groups that have agreed to partner with us on this important project," Governor Richardson added. "Their dedication and expertise will be critical to the success of our efforts."
Those partners include: Return to Freedom Wild Horse Preservation, ASPCA, Humane Society of United States, Animal Welfare Institute, and Animal Protection of New Mexico.
The Foundation and its partners are currently working with representatives of the Navajo Nation on developing the first phase of the equine management program, which may eventually include adoptions, triages, veterinarian services and sanctuaries. They are also working to identify possible funding sources for these activities.
Meanwhile, the Navajo Nation has agreed to immediately make every effort to only deal with those horse buyers that offer humane alternatives to the transportation of horses to slaughter facilities.
"Return to Freedom salutes Governor Richardson for his leadership and applauds Navajo President Shelley for his commitment to collaborate on alternatives to horse slaughter while we work together on long-term solutions for horses on Navajo lands," said Neda DeMayo President of Return to Freedom, a wild horse preservation and education organization. "Since 1999, Return to Freedom has pioneered educational programs and minimally invasive wild horse management solutions that have been applied both on sanctuaries and on western rangelands. We stand ready to help."
"The ASPCA applauds former Governor Richardson and Navajo President Shelly for their joint efforts to protect the free-roaming horses on Navajo land from being sent to slaughter," said Jacque Schultz, senior director of the ASPCA Equine Fund. "Horses have been central to the ASPCA's mission since our founding in 1866. Through our experience providing funding and training sources to equine rescues and sanctuaries around the country, we look forward to lending our support at this critical juncture to those ready and willing to offer a humane alternative to slaughter."
"The HSUS welcomes the opportunity to work with The Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife and the Navajo Nation to implement long-term, humane and sustainable solutions for managing the Navajo Nation's horse population," said Stephanie Boyles Griffin, The HSUS' senior director of Innovative Wildlife Management. "The HSUS is a leader in the research and development of non-lethal wildlife management technologies and is currently conducting wild horse fertility control research projects, including one in the Jarita Mesa Wild Horse Territory in New Mexico. The Navajo Nation's efforts to create humane horse management programs will serve as a model for other tribes and will be a source of pride for the entire tribe for years to come."
"We are grateful for the opportunity to join with Governor Richardson in working with the Navajo Nation and the Navajo people on what will be an unprecedented endeavor to save wild horses from being removed from their habitat and slaughtered," said Chris Heyde, deputy director of Government and Legal Affairs for the Animal Welfare Institute. "The horse is central to the culture of the Dine' and we know the people have great reverence for their wellbeing and conservation. With time and cooperation, this project will succeed and be an example for the proper management of all wild and free-roaming horses throughout the West."
"Horses help to remind us of the things all New Mexicans care about: our land, our people, and all the animals that enrich our lives and make our state unique and wonderful. We're grateful for the opportunity to work with the Navajo people to help preserve this honorable heritage," said Lisa Jennings, Executive Director of Animal Protection of New Mexico.
About the Foundation to Protect NM Wildlife:
Governor Richardson and actor, director and conservationist Robert Redford founded the Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife in 2013. Since its inception, the Foundation has worked to stop the slaughter of horses and seek out alternative and humane solutions to deal with the country's wild horse population.