SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Some of New Mexico’s legislators are hoping to address what they see as a big problem in the state: free-roaming horses. Thursday, legislators debated a bill to help control the horses.
Senate Bill 301, sponsored by Sen. Brenda G. McKenna (D-Bernalillo & Sandoval) and Rep. Matthew McQueen (D-Sandoval and Santa Fe), looks to address overpopulations of wild horses.
“While there are free-roaming horses in the state that live without incident, there are areas of the state where there are conflict with people and with natural resources,” Jessica Johnson from Animal Protection Voters, explained to the Senate Conservation Committee Thursday. “So, we are eager to make some changes to the state law to help in the near term.”
The bill would create the position of a “free-roaming horse expert” (an independent contractor) who answers to the New Mexico Livestock Board. And that expert would help landowners control free-roaming horses. But, the bill might not be a complete solution to the problem.
“This bill is not a comprehensive free-roaming horse management bill. It doesn’t address everything that could be addressed, because there are really difficult issues in managing free-roaming horses,” bill co-sponsor Rep. McQueen said. “But I do think it’s a significant step in the right direction.”
A resident of Placitas spoke in support of the bill. They noted that there have been a number of potentially dangerous incidents on roadways where horses and vehicles collide. Another member of the public estimated there’s around 170 free-roaming horses in the Placitas area.
But not everyone was in favor of the temporary solution. “We agree there is a problem,” Bronson Corn, from the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, said. But “you’re not going to be able to fix this problem without proper management. And proper management entails the culling of livestock.”
A speaker for the American Wild Horse Campaign in New Mexico also opposed the bill as written. The bill “lacks a provision to preserve wild horse herds that have significance to communities in the state,” they said. It could also undermine programs to control free-roaming horses using contraceptives, they added.
Following debate from both supporters and opposition, Jessica Johnson, from Animal Protection Voters, clarified that the plan outlined in the bill really only seeks to control horse populations when they exceed the sustainable limit able to live on the land. The bill wouldn’t remove all free-roaming horses.
The committee approved the bill on Thursday. Still, the plan might be re-worked and adjusted as it moves through more debates in the Roundhouse.