Wild Horse Program Facing Future $1 Billion Budget Crisis
May 13, 2016

The head of the Bureau of Land Management says it's time to admit his agency has a $1 billion problem.

BLM Director Neil Kornze says the administration can't afford to wage an increasingly uphill battle to protect the ecological health of federal rangeland across the West while at the same time properly managing tens of thousands of wild horses and caring for tens of thousands more rounded up in government corals.

Kornze told The Associated Press the agency may not have done as good of a job as it could have in recent years to underscore the environmental and budgetary crisis looming in its wild horse and burro program. His experts estimate $1 billion will be needed to care for the 46,000 wild horses and burros currently in U.S. holding facilities over their lifetime. That doesn't include the cost of future efforts to shrink the population of the record-67,000 now roaming public lands in 10 western states.

The 67,000 horses and burros on the range is a 15 percent increase from last year, and more than double the population that was estimated when President Nixon signed the Wild and Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act into law in 1971. The landmark legislation allows for removals but also grants the animals unique federal protection and requires they be treated humanely during and after their capture.

Kornze said his agency's horse budget has doubled since 2009 - from $40 million to more than $80 million currently - but "the trajectory of the population has just gone up and up." Left unchecked, the population naturally doubles every four years.

Reprinted in part from KOLOtv.com