Photo by Tina Thuell
The challenge of managing America’s wild horses and burros need not be an intractable one. Now is the time to create a proud vision that will ensure for generations to come the freedom, health and well-being of wild horses and burros on the range while saving taxpayers tens of millions of dollars annually.
The Bureau of Land Management manufactured a crisis by ignoring the availability of safe, effective fertility control vaccines and other humane options to control the number of horses and burros on the range. The agency used helicopters to round up horses before trucking them to the government corrals and pastures scattered throughout the Midwest where the BLM houses them at great cost.
For example, in 2016 BLM spent less than 1% of its $80.6 million budget on fertility control -- compared to 67% for the capture, removal and off-range stockpiling of wild horses.
Consequently, the agency finds itself under increasing pressure from Washington, D.C., to cut the costs of caring for captured wild horses and burros. At the same time, ranchers, other moneyed interests and some Western lawmakers press the BLM to capture and remove even more wild horses and burros from their home ranges.
It is not enough to say “no” to proposals that put the lives of wild horses on the line, though Return to Freedom strongly urges lawmakers to begin by doing so.
Congress should also adopt a pragmatic, multi-pronged – and bipartisan -- approach supporting good range management for livestock and wildlife while providing an equitable allocation of forage and water to our wild horses and burros on designated Herd Management Areas.
A 2013 economic model published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine found that the BLM could attain its management goals within 12 years by investing in just one of the proposed solutions listed above: the judicious use of fertility control. The study found this would save $8 million at a single Herd Management Area.
We, the undersigned citizens, call on the United States President, the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. Department of the Interior to redirect tax dollars toward on-range management of wild horses and burros and away from the Bureau of Land Management’s antiquated, inhumane and unsustainably expensive system of capturing, removing and warehousing wild horses.
The federal government should instead: