Colorado Wildlife Conservation Project Thanks BLM for Controversial Wild Horse Gathers

Contact: Ellary TuckerWilliams, Rocky Mountain States, Assistant Manager

  • Wild horses and burros far exceed sustainable population levels and existing water and vegetation resources cannot sustain the current populations.
  • 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.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF), along with other members of the Colorado Wildlife Conservation Partnership, submitted a letter to the acting BLM Colorado Director, showcasing the broad local and state-based support for the continuation of wild horse gathers.

Why it Matters: As an iconic symbol of the American West, wild horses and burros are federally protected under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, that specifies populations shall be maintained in a manner that produces a thriving ecological balance. Specific to Colorado, the scientifically determined appropriate management level (AML) for wild horses is 827 animals, however, the current population is nearly three times that, at an estimated 2,412 animals. Because of the significant ecological harm that wild horses and burros cause when exceeding AML, CSF, along with other members of the Colorado Wildlife Conservation Partnership submitted a letter to the acting BLM Colorado Director, showcasing the broad local and state-based support for the continuation of wild horse gathers.

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 (BLM) 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. 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. 

Earlier this year, CSF and over 30 national partners submitted a letter to the BLM 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. Despite conclusive scientific evidence that the overpopulation of horses is having severe negative ecological impacts on sensitive landscapes, the BLM continues to receive significant pushback from horse advocates, claiming current non-lethal management techniques as “cruel,” “costly,” and “unnecessary.”

In response to the continued misguided opposition to the BLMs increased efforts to non-lethally reduce wild horse populations in the West, CSF, along with other members of the Colorado Wildlife Conservation Partnership submitted a letter to the acting BLM Colorado Director, showcasing the broad local and state-based support for the continuation of science-based wild horse gathers.  Several similar letters are expected to be submitted to the BLM State Offices by local coalitions in state that contain wild horses.

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