Contact: Keely Hopkins, Manager Pacific States and Firearm Policy
Why It Matters: Wild horse and burro management is critical to conserving public lands, vegetation, and riparian areas. Overpopulation causes severe damage to the ecosystems and habitat upon which the horses rely, along with other wildlife and fish populations. Existing water and vegetation resources cannot sustain the current wild horse population, and the increasing wild horse numbers continue to threaten all wildlife and fish species that depend on the same habitat for survival.
Wild horses and burros have long been a symbol of the American West, receiving protection from Congress in 1971 under the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act (WFRHBA). Under this Act, wild horses and burros were to be maintained in a manner that produces a “thriving ecological balance”. Now fast forward to today: there are currently over 86,000 wild horses and burros roaming the West, which is three times greater than the carrying capacity that is needed to sustain their ecosystem.
As a result of the continued growth of wild horse and burro populations in the West, habitat is declining in quality across many areas, which is being further exacerbated by warmer and drier conditions, wildfire, and invasive plants. Native wildlife species that millions of Americans care about—including bighorn sheep, sage grouse, pollinators, and a multitude of other species large and small— are feeling the negative effects of wild horses and burros across most of their range.
On June 10, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, along with the Coalition for Healthy Nevada Lands, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and 47 additional national and state organizations submitted a letter to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies to encourage adequate funding for BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program to address the urgent need to manage wild horse overpopulation. Along the same lines, CSF and over 30 national partners submitted a letter to the BLM earlier this year in support of its efforts to reduce the overpopulation of wild horses and burros and urged the Administration to prioritize funding population control efforts as part of the President’s Fiscal Year 2023. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to advocate for the achievement of Appropriate Management Levels to retain the health of our lands, wildlife, and for the wild horses themselves.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?