Why it matters: Despite their legal classification as “wild” on federal land, unbranded and unclaimed free-roaming horses and burros are non-native, feral livestock that lack natural predators. Wild horse and burros can, and often do, have a significant negative impact on native ecosystems and habitat. There are an estimated 86,000 wild horses and burros on BLM and national forest lands, which exceeds the agencies’ own Appropriate Management Levels by more than 320 percent.
On February 23,CSF and 33 of the leading hunting-conservation and wildlife science professionals sent a letter to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to express our support for increased efforts to better manage wild horse and burro populations across the West.
Wild horses and burros have long been an iconic symbol of the American West. In 1971, wild horses and burros received federal protection from Congress under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Fortunately, this legislation specifies that wild horses and burros shall be maintained in a manner that produces a thriving ecological balance. Despite this management criteria, wild horses and burros far exceed sustainable population levels and existing water and vegetation resources cannot sustain the current wild horse population. Increasing wild horse and burro numbers continue to threaten all wildlife and fish species that depend on the same habitat for their survival.
The Bureau of Land Management is seeking to increase wild horse and burro gather and fertility control operations in 2022 to reduce the threats posed by excessive wild horse and burro populations. If left unmanaged through programs such as gatherings and fertility control, wild horse and burro herds often grow at 20 percent annually, and double in size every four years. In the letter, CSF and partners expressed support for the BLM’s efforts to reduce 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.
As an active member of the National Horse & Burro Rangeland Management Coalition Steering Committee, CSF advocates for common-sense, ecologically-sound approaches to managing wild horses and burros to promote healthy wildlife and rangelands for future generations across the West. This Coalition is unique in its ability to bring all interested public land stakeholders together to promote healthy wildlife and rangelands across the Western United States.
CSF will continue to work with the BLM and our partners to secure a healthy and sustainable population level for wild horses and burros across the Western United States.
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?