The BLM Has Found A Lot Of People To Hold Its Horses (And Burros)

October 24, 2019
In this June 29, 2018, photo, wild horses walk to a watering hole outside Salt Lake City. In this June 29, 2018, photo, wild horses walk to a watering hole outside Salt Lake City. Rick Bowmer/AP Photo
In this June 29, 2018, photo, wild horses walk to a watering hole outside Salt Lake City.

More than 7,100 wild horses and burros have been placed into private homes this fiscal year, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

The current overpopulation of wild horses and burros led the agency to implement an Adoption Incentive Program last March, which offers successful adopters $1,000 to give a wild horse or burro a good home. 

 “Adopted animals are given good homes and contribute to healthier herds, and is a testament to how strongly our nation is committed to participating in the success of public lands,” said Casey Hammond, The acting Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management. 

In Colorado, 254 horses were adopted and 18 were sold.

The wild horse and burro population was estimated at 88,000 as of March 2019, three times the number the land can sustain, according to the BLM. 

Acting BLM Director William Perry Pendley said those numbers cannot be “sustained” and are detrimental, not only to the habitat but to other wildlife the BLM manages on public lands.

“We want to utilize fertility control measures, and we need more research into effective contraceptives and population control mechanisms,” Pendley said. He added that Congress limits the types of activity the BLM can use to control the population of wild horses and burros, which leaves euthanasia off the table.

Pendley said that range scientists estimate public lands can support about 27,000 wild horses and burros. He added it will take about $5 billion and 15 years to get down to those levels.

Meanwhile, Colorado Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse and other members of Congress sent a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to request BLM’s report on the Wild Horse and Burro Program, which is three months overdue. 

Neguse, who sits on the House Natural Resources Committee, said these are “iconic” animals to the culture of the West. 

“For years, the Bureau of Land Management — who are tasked with managing these herds — has had inefficient and vague management strategies for ensuring these treasured animals are able to thrive,” he said.

The letter also states BLM’s current practice of round-ups and private corrals isn’t addressing population growth. Keeping the animals in private corrals cost the BLM about $50 million per year, according to Pendley.

He said the agency is working on its report to Congress, but that Interior Secretary Bernhardt was unhappy with previous documents on the topic.

“He gave strict orders that we’re to prepare a thoughtful, well-reasoned document to the Hill. And anything less we’re not going to send up there.”