Public Comment Period Underway for BLM’s Proposed Wild Horse Research Projects

Contact: Keely Hopkins, Manager Pacific States and Firearm Policy

  • The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is accepting public comments through August 22 for three new proposed research projects focused on fertility control methods for managing wild horse herds on public lands.
  • There are currently over 82,000 wild horses and burros, which is three times greater than the carrying capacity of BLM- managed public lands. This extreme overpopulation has caused severe damage to vegetation and riparian systems, which in turn has negatively impacted wildlife, native fish populations, and has even imperiled the wild horses themselves.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is actively advocating for wild horse and burro populations to be reduced and then maintained at appropriate management levels to protect the health of the land, wildlife, and of the those remaining wild horses and burros themselves before irreversible ecological damage occurs.

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.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently accepting comments on three new proposed research projects focused on fertility control methods for wild horses on public lands. Two of the proposed research projects would quantify the effectiveness of vaccines for preventing pregnancies in wild horse mares: one would build upon previous research to develop a long-term one-dose vaccine, and a second project would test a fertility control vaccine with preliminary studies in horses and other animals. The third proposed research project would test specialized intrauterine devices (IUDs) in a wild horse herd management area on public lands. Instructions to access the draft analysis and to submit a comment can found by visiting the BLM’s ePlanning page.

Absent intervention, wild horse populations double in size every four years.  As of March 2022, there were approximately 82,000 wild horses and burros roaming public lands, which is more than three times the appropriate herd size. 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 nonnative 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 being negatively impacted across most of their range.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation is actively advocating for wild horse and burro populations to be reduced and then maintained at appropriate management levels. 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.

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