I wanted to post on this subject when I first read news of it, but thought it was important to wait for the official press release from the Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency charged with the “management” of herds of wild horses roaming the American West, as dictated by a federal law that was designed to protect wild horses and burros and keep them wild. Today, it is estimated that more “wild” horses live in government-owned or -subsidized pens than in the wild.
Buried in this press release is an announcement of critical importance as it marks a major sea change in management policy for the BLM’s wild horse management scheme.
The word “euthanasia” is used incorrectly in this press release; what the government is proposing to do is more technically “culling”, albeit on a major scale. This is what is done in some other countries, such as Australia.
Here’s the statement:
BLM Confronts Challenges in the West’sWild Horse and Burro Program
The Bureau of Land Management is facing a number of difficult challenges in the National Wild Horse and Burro Program. Our goal in the West is to manage healthy, free-roaming herds on healthy rangelands; however, it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so.
Wild horses and burros in the West have virtually no natural predators and their herd sizes can double about every four years. As a result, the agency must remove thousands of animals from Western public rangelands each year to ensure that herd sizes are consistent with the land’s capacity to support them. As of June 2008, there are more than 30,000 wild horses and burros that are fed and cared for at short-term and long-term holding facilities.
It is essential to keep the BLM’s wild horse and burro program in balance. Right now, the cost of keeping these animals in holding facilities is spiraling out of control and preventing the agency from successfully managing other parts of the program. For example, this fiscal year, holding costs will exceed $26 million, more than three-fourths of the BLM’s congressional appropriation of about $37 million for this program.
In addition, rising energy prices have increased costs. In one year alone, energy costs for transportation and feed have increased almost $4 million. It is clear the agency cannot continue current removal and holding practices under existing and projected budgets. Neither can the BLM allow horses to multiply unchecked on the range without causing an environmental disaster.
That’s why the BLM is exploring options to exercise its legal authority to (1) sell older and certain other unadopted animals “without limitation” to any willing buyers and (2) euthanize those wild horses and burros for which no adoption demand exists. We know this is not a popular option, but we are at a critical point where we must consider using the legal authorities allowed us.
The BLM welcomes your input as we work to improve the program and the welfare of the West’s wild horses and burros within our budget. To leave feedback on this program, please call 1-800-710-7597.
(end of BLM official statement)