The most important piece to bringing the wild horse and burro program back into alignment with the intentions of Congress is to reduce the reproduction rate of the herd to equal the adoption/sale demand. This was the main point provided by the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), the Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association in its comments to the recent proposal put out by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), "Draft Goals, Objectives and Possible Management Actions," for the wild horse and burro program.
"While wild horses and burros are a symbol of the Old West," commented Art Swannack (Wash.), chairman of ASI's Resource Management Council. "The reality is that uncontrolled populations of wild horses and burros are wreaking havoc on our public lands and are affecting both wildlife and domestic grazing and the habitats that are necessary for both."
As stated in the comments, the wild horse population is out of control, and without implementing solutions to reduce the reproduction rate, increase adoption or otherwise dispose of excess horses, the program will continue to be a burden on the BLM, ranchers and the natural resources on our federal lands. Over population is continuing to cause serious problems, including overgrazing, environmental damage and even starvation.
According to BLM figures, the appropriate management level of horses and burros on the range is about 28,000. Currently there are over 38,000. Additionally, there are nearly 30,000 in short? and long?term holding facilities consuming nearly two-thirds of the program budget.
"To realize the magnitude of this problem, one has to understand that at current reproduction rates, wild horse populations double every 3.6 years and we cannot sit around and do nothing and expect the problem to get better," continued Swannack.
Since enactment of the Free?Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act in 1971, grazing on federal lands has been reduced by as much as 50 percent while the horse population has been on the rise. In fact, if the herd continues to increase at its current rate, in four years, the population will be twice its current size, which, according to BLM, is already 25 percent above sustainable levels.
While wild horses and burros make up one part of the western landscape, the BLM's plan must provide practical solutions to keep the herds at sustainable, scientifically derived management levels to maintain a successful co?existence between wildlife, ranching and the other multiple uses.