The fate of America’s wild horses and burros has been debated for years and could quite possibly be one of the more controversial topics in the West. While animal rights activists have petitioned to keep the animals safe from unnecessary roundups and euthanasia, cattlemen and ranchers argue that the animals are too plentiful and detrimental to western ranching operations. This week, an agreement was reached between livestock groups and activists on how to best manage wild horses and burros on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land.
This agreement is a collaborative effort between various stakeholders brought together by Congressman Chris Stewart (R-UT) and included groups like the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), A.S.P.C.A., Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation, the Humane Society of the United States, Public Lands Council, and the Society for Range Management.
The goal of the group was to reduce on-range populations. According to Ethan Lane, executive director of the Public Lands Council and NCBA Federal Lands, the plan went through several revisions and the finish product “focuses on appropriations language designed to promote increased gather of overpopulated Herd Management Areas (HMA), dramatically increased use of sterilization, including permanent methods, and removal and relocation of excess horses to more cost-effective long-term holding facilities.” What this means is an increase in the number of horses gathered annually (15,000 to 20,000 animals respectfully), fertility control for every horse and burro gathered, lower cost holding facilities that are located on private land and not adjacent to federal lands or HMAs and the requirement that activities put some “skin in the game” through funding outreach and adoption efforts like livestock groups already do.
“I want to stress that this is compromise language,” said Lane in his letter announcing the plan. “Both sides have had to move off of our core beliefs about the best methods of managing these horses.”
The proposal asks for $50 million in additional funding, which would bring the annual total spent on wild horses and burros to $130 million.
“We believe this proposal has the potential to accomplish our primary objective—reducing on-range horse and burro populations to AML [Appropriate Management Level]—if funded by Congress and properly implemented by BLM,” said Lane.
A full copy of the proposal can be found below: