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112th Congress                                                   Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session                                                    112-310

======================================================================



 
                   COROLLA WILD HORSES PROTECTION ACT

                                _______
                                

December 1, 2011.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the 
              State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

 Mr. Hastings of Washington, from the Committee on Natural Resources, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                             together with

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

                        [To accompany H.R. 306]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Natural Resources, to whom was referred 
the bill (H.R. 306) to direct the Secretary of the Interior to 
enter into an agreement to provide for management of the free-
roaming wild horses in and around the Currituck National 
Wildlife Refuge, having considered the same, report favorably 
thereon with an amendment and recommend that the bill as 
amended do pass.
    The amendment is as follows:
  Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the 
following:

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

  This Act may be cited as the ``Corolla Wild Horses Protection Act''.

SEC. 2. WILD HORSES IN AND AROUND THE CURRITUCK NATIONAL WILDLIFE 
                    REFUGE.

  (a) Agreement Required.--
          (1) In general.--The Secretary of the Interior shall 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 within 180 days after the date of 
        enactment of this Act to provide for management of free-roaming 
        wild horses in and around the Currituck National Wildlife 
        Refuge.
          (2) Terms.--The agreement shall--
                  (A) allow a herd of not less than 110 and not more 
                than 130 free-roaming wild horses in and around such 
                refuge, with a target population of between 120 and 130 
                free-roaming wild horses;
                  (B) provide for cost-effective management of the 
                horses while ensuring that natural resources within the 
                refuge are not adversely impacted;
                  (C) provide for introduction of a small number of 
                free-roaming wild horses from the herd at Cape Lookout 
                National Seashore as is necessary to maintain the 
                genetic viability of the herd in and around the 
                Currituck National Wildlife Refuge; and
                  (D) specify that the Corolla Wild Horse Fund shall 
                pay the costs associated with--
                          (i) coordinating a periodic census and 
                        inspecting the health of the horses;
                          (ii) maintaining records of the horses living 
                        in the wild and in confinement;
                          (iii) coordinating the removal and placement 
                        of horses and monitoring of any horses removed 
                        from the Currituck County Outer Banks; and
                          (iv) administering a viable population 
                        control plan for the horses including auctions, 
                        adoptions, contraceptive fertility methods, and 
                        other viable options.
  (b) Conditions for Excluding Wild Horses From Refuge.--The Secretary 
shall not exclude free-roaming wild horses from any portion of the 
Currituck National Wildlife Refuge unless--
          (1) the Secretary finds that the presence of free-roaming 
        wild horses on a portion of the Refuge threatens the survival 
        of an endangered species for which such land is designated as 
        critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 
        U.S.C. 1531 et seq.);
          (2) such finding is based on a credible peer-reviewed 
        scientific assessment; and
          (3) the Secretary provides a period of public notice and 
        comment on that finding.
  (c) Requirements for Introduction of Horses From Cape Lookout 
National Seashore.--During the effective period of the memorandum of 
understanding between the National Park Service and the Foundation for 
Shackleford Horses, Inc. (a non-profit corporation organized under the 
laws of and doing business in the State of North Carolina) signed in 
2007, no horse may be removed from Cape Lookout National Seashore for 
introduction at Currituck National Wildlife Refuge except--
          (1) with the approval of the Foundation; and
          (2) consistent with the terms of such memorandum (or any 
        successor agreement) and the Management Plan for the 
        Shackleford Banks Horse Herd signed in January 2006 (or any 
        successor management plan).
  (d) No Liability Created.--Nothing in this section shall be construed 
as creating liability for the United States for any damages caused by 
the free-roaming wild horses to any person or property located inside 
or outside the boundaries of the refuge.

                          PURPOSE OF THE BILL

    The purpose of H.R. 306, as ordered reported, is to direct 
the Secretary of the Interior to enter into an agreement to 
provide for management of the free-roaming wild horses in and 
around the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge.

                  BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION

    While it is not precisely known when the Corolla horses 
arrived on the Currituck Outer Banks, North Carolina, there is 
some evidence that they were introduced by Spanish explorers 
500 years ago. In 2007, the National Horse of the Americas 
Registry recognized and registered these horses as Colonial 
Spanish Mustangs. These wild horses have survived nearly five 
centuries of fierce hurricanes, severe droughts, floods and 
swarms of biting insects. Today, the herd is comprised of about 
140 animals that live on approximately 7,544 acres of public 
and private lands. This is divided in the following way: 4,671 
acres are privately owned by individuals and corporations; 
2,495 acres are part of the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge; 
326 acres are found in the North Carolina National Estuarine 
Research Reserve; and 51 acres are owned by the Nature 
Conservancy.
    In 1988, the Corolla Wild Horse Fund was established to 
support the wild Spanish mustangs and to educate the public 
about the history of the herd. The Fund was also instrumental 
in the enactment of a 1989 Wild Horse Ordinance which made it 
``unlawful'' for ``any person to lure, attract, or entice a 
wild horse to come within 50 feet of any person'' or ``any 
person to lure or entice a wild horse out of a wild horse 
sanctuary.'' In Currituck County, the wild horse sanctuary is 
defined to extend from Corolla, North Carolina, to the Virginia 
Commonwealth line.
    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. Under 
the Plan, the maximum number of horses allowed within the 
sanctuary is 60 and the Corolla Wild Horse Fund is permitted to 
control the population of these horses ``through adoption, 
relocation, auction or contraceptive fertility methods.'' There 
was apparently no scientific basis for selecting this herd 
size. It was the result of contentious discussions where the 
Corolla Wild Horse Fund requested a herd size of at least 100 
against the Service's position of zero horses.
    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. According to a veterinary expert, ``Horses of the 
Corolla herd show levels of genetic variability that are among 
the lowest seen in any horse population.'' Under the existing 
agreement, any changes to the Plan management must be adopted 
by a consensus vote. These requests have been repeatedly denied 
by the Service, prompting the need for H.R. 306.
    The Currituck National Wildlife Refuge was established in 
1984 to manage waterfowl, migratory birds, and endangered 
species such as piping plovers, sea turtles and sea beach 
amaranth. The Service will allow wild horses, which they define 
as feral animals, to freely roam the refuge as long as the 
horses do not significantly impact habitat or wildlife under 
the Endangered Species Act, the Refuge Administration Act, and 
the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act. While the 
Service has been unable to quantify any negative impacts of the 
35 Corolla horses that utilize refuge land, the Service has 
initiated a research project to ``determine the impacts of 
deer, hogs, and horses on refuge habitats.'' Those results are 
not expected before June 2012.
    On June 8, 2011, the Acting Deputy Director of the Service 
submitted a letter outlining various estimates of the annual 
costs of managing the wild horses, the additional expenses the 
Service may incur and an estimate of one-time costs as a result 
of the passage of H.R. 306. While the Committee appreciates 
having this information, it lacks detail, justification and 
specificity. For instance, there is no explanation as to why it 
would cost the Service an additional $160,000 a year to manage 
these horses simply because this legislation is enacted into 
law. H.R. 306 does not mandate any additional management 
requirements for the Service and there is no indication that 
the Service intends to assign staff to what is currently an 
unstaffed refuge or that they intend to build a visitor center, 
roads, hiking trails or any facilities which currently do not 
exist. The projected costs do not match up with existing or 
future management requirements.
    Second, after carefully examining the estimated annual 
costs, it is clear that the overwhelming majority of these 
expenditures are for a new wildlife biologist, staff salaries, 
expenses such as a horse survey, adoption and feeding of wild 
horses, and veterinary costs. With the exception of a new 
biologist and staff salaries, each of those expenses will be 
incurred by the Corolla Wild Horse Fund and not the Service. 
The Committee notes that the 2006 Comprehensive Conservation 
Plan for the refuge states: ``The assistant manager performs 
the functions of a wildlife biologist. The refuge needs 
additional staff to meet its objectives. The biological and 
public use programs are currently the greatest needs.'' The 
document goes on to describe the types of activities that the 
new wildlife biologist would perform, including conducting 
surveys of shorebirds, establishing an inventory protocol for 
neotropical migratory songbirds and monitoring the impacts of 
feral hogs on vegetation and habitat. It appears that the 
Service is now trying to use this legislation to justify the 
hiring of a new wildlife biologist that was an identified need 
for Currituck long before the introduction of this legislation.
    Third, included within the estimated one-time costs 
attributed to the enactment of H.R. 306 are $186,000 for a new 
barn and corral for the horses, $54,000 for a new boat and 
trailer, pickup truck and utility vehicle, and $26,000 for wild 
herd examinations. Together, these represent $266,000 of the 
$285,000 the Service has identified as ``one-time'' costs. In 
justifying the need for a new barn and corral, the Service has 
stated that it is needed for those horses they handle, 
constructing horse facilities and herd examinations. If this is 
the case, then the Service would be in direct violation of the 
Currituck County Code of Ordinances as it applies to wild 
horses. Specifically the Ordinance says: ``No person shall 
possess, harbor or keep in possession by confinement any wild 
horse. The provision of this section shall not apply to the 
keeping of wild horses in a licensed veterinary hospital or 
other location for treatment under the care and supervision of 
a licensed veterinarian.'' In addition, the Service has not 
provided any details on the need for these new vehicles, and 
the Corolla Wild Horse Fund is responsible for all wild horse 
health-related activities and costs including herd 
examinations.
    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 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.

                            COMMITTEE ACTION

    H.R. 306 was introduced on January 18, 2011, by Congressman 
Walter Jones (R-NC). The bill was referred to the Committee on 
Natural Resources, and within the Committee to the Subcommittee 
on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs. On April 
7, 2011, the Subcommittee held a hearing on the bill. On 
October 5, 2011, the Full Natural Resources Committee met to 
consider the bill. The Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, 
Oceans, and Insular Affairs was discharged by unanimous 
consent. Congressman John Fleming (R-LA) offered an amendment 
designated .001; the amendment was adopted by voice vote. The 
bill, as amended, was then ordered favorably reported to the 
House of Representatives by voice vote.

            COMMITTEE OVERSIGHT FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

    Regarding clause 2(b)(1) of rule X and clause 3(c)(1) of 
rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the 
Committee on Natural Resources' oversight findings and 
recommendations are reflected in the body of this report.

                    COMPLIANCE WITH HOUSE RULE XIII

    1. Cost of Legislation. Clause 3(d)(1) of rule XIII of the 
Rules of the House of Representatives requires an estimate and 
a comparison by the Committee of the costs which would be 
incurred in carrying out this bill. However, clause 3(d)(2)(B) 
of that rule provides that this requirement does not apply when 
the Committee has included in its report a timely submitted 
cost estimate of the bill prepared by the Director of the 
Congressional Budget Office under section 402 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974. Under clause 3(c)(3) of rule 
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and section 
403 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee has 
received the following cost estimate for this bill from the 
Director of the Congressional Budget Office:

H.R. 306--Corolla Wild Horses Protection Act

    H.R. 306 would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(USFWS) to enter into an agreement with the Corolla Wild Horse 
Fund (CWHF), a nonprofit organization, to manage wild horses in 
and around the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge. The wild 
horse population in the area is currently managed under a 
similar agreement between USFWS and CWHF. The new agreement 
would require CWHF to reduce the number of wild horses in the 
area from 144 to 130 and would specify that CWHF is responsible 
for certain costs associated with managing the wild horse 
population.
    Based on information provided by CWHF, CBO expects that, 
under the bill, the organization would manage the wild horse 
population using private funds; we estimate that the federal 
government would incur no significant additional costs to 
manage or mitigate the effects of horses on the refuge. If, 
however, CWHF was unable to maintain the population at or below 
130 horses as required under the bill, CBO expects that USFWS 
would incur costs totaling roughly $200,000 a year to manage 
the horses. Such spending would be subject to the availability 
of appropriated funds. Enacting H.R. 306 would not affect 
direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go 
procedures do not apply.
    H.R. 306 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and 
would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal governments.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Jeff LaFave. The 
estimate was approved by Theresa Gullo, Deputy Assistant 
Director for Budget Analysis.
    2. Section 308(a) of Congressional Budget Act. As required 
by clause 3(c)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives and section 308(a) of the Congressional Budget 
Act of 1974, this bill does not contain any new budget 
authority, spending authority, credit authority, or an increase 
or decrease in revenues or tax expenditures. Based on 
information provided by the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, CBO 
expects that, under the bill, the organization would manage the 
wild horse population using private funds; estimates that the 
federal government would incur no significant additional costs 
to manage or mitigate the effects of horses on the refuge. If, 
however, the Corolla Wild Horse Fund was unable to maintain the 
population at or below 130 horses as required under the bill, 
CBO expects that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would incur 
costs totaling roughly $200,000 a year to manage the horses. 
Such spending would be subject to the availability of 
appropriated funds.
    3. General Performance Goals and Objectives. As required by 
clause 3(c)(4) of rule XIII, the general performance goal or 
objective of this bill, as ordered reported, is to direct the 
Secretary of the Interior to enter into an agreement to provide 
for management of the free-roaming wild horses in and around 
the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge.

                           EARMARK STATEMENT

    This bill does not contain any Congressional earmarks, 
limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as defined 
under clause 9(e), 9(f), and 9(g) of rule XXI of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives.

                    COMPLIANCE WITH PUBLIC LAW 104-4

    This bill contains no unfunded mandates.

                PREEMPTION OF STATE, LOCAL OR TRIBAL LAW

    This bill is not intended to preempt any State, local or 
tribal law.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    If enacted, this bill would make no changes in existing 
law.