Wild horses continue to crowd public lands

Wild horses continue to crowd public lands

After the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) releases a new report detailing the overpopulation of feral horses and burros on public lands, a group of feral horse activists are taking issue with what they call the failed management of BLM.

In an April 12 report, the BLM released new population estimates for wild horses and burros on public lands administered by the BLM. As of March 1, there were approximately 64,604 horses and 17,780 burros on BLM land, totaling 82,384 animals. The total number is a reduction of 3,805 head from the 86,189 animals reported in March 2021.

The BLM said that although there has been a second year of population declines, the 2022 estimate remains three times the BLM’s target of around 27,000 animals. The last time estimated populations declined for two consecutive years was in 2006 and 2007.

“Overcrowded herds – herds that are above their established appropriate management level – are at increased risk of food and water scarcity and habitat degradation, especially as the conditions of extreme drought continue to threaten animal and land health in the West,” BLM said in a statement. .

The agency has removed more than 50,000 animals and treated more than 3,200 head with fertility control measures since 2018 with support from Congress. BLM also said it increased the number of animals placed in private care, finding homes for more than 26,500 head.

“For nearly two decades, wild horse and burro populations have been characterized by rapid growth, which has resulted in overcrowding on public rangelands,” the agency concluded.

In response to the new data, the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) called BLM’s management “a fiscal and animal welfare disaster that continues to rely on costly, inhumane and ineffective roundups while ignoring oversight. births scientifically recommended as a humane and cost-effective solution.”

The group claimed that BLM’s focus on kidnappings over the past four years has cost taxpayers $369 million and landed the largest number of feral horses in history in out-of-reach detention facilities. .

“Roundups are like a bandage over a bullet wound. They don’t work,” said AWHC Executive Director Suzanne Roy. “The agency is on a treadmill that it will never leave without investing in fertility testing to approach reproduction humanely on the beach.”

The group is lobbying for funding for the “implementation of humane fertility screening” and supports legislation that would ban the use of helicopters to capture wild animals. The AWHC also said BLM’s desired population limit for feral horses and burros is not based on science.

“We support the Sierra Club and many other environmental organizations who have challenged this administration for scapegoating wild horses for the environmental damage caused by the massive grazing of commercial livestock on our public lands,” Roy concluded.

In response, the BLM said the agency continues to improve the Wild Horse and Burro program, including measures to reduce costs to taxpayers.

“The BLM also continues to expand its fertility control efforts to help control herd growth and reduce the need to remove excess animals from overcrowded herds,” BLM spokesman Richard Packer said. in a letter. He noted that the BLM performed a record number of fertility control treatments last year and plans to double that number this year.

“BLM’s goal is to gradually reduce overcrowding and achieve healthy herds of feral horses and burros on healthy public lands through a combination of roundups, fertility testing, adoptions, and off-grazing. journey,” Packer concluded.

Source: Western Livestock Journal