Elk NetworkRMEF Backs Efforts to Implement Wild Horse & Burro Management

Conservation | May 30, 2017

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation supports President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Proposal to allow the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to use all management options to manage wild horse and burro populations.

BLM currently oversees more than 45,000 un-adopted wild horses and burros in holding facilities, costing taxpayers more than $50 million annually. Additionally, a March 2017 report estimates 73,000 wild horses and burros are on the landscape. That total is nearly 300 percent above objective and has widespread detrimental impacts on native wildlife and wildlife habitat.

Congress must act now to allow BLM to manage healthy rangelands as well as wild horses and burros in a “thriving natural ecological balance.”

Read the full letterStatement on BLM’s Wild Horse & Burro Management Program FY2018 Budget Request

 President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Proposal calls for the removal of appropriations language that restricts the BLM from using all management options authorized under the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, as amended. The President’s request implements a September 2016 recommendation of the National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board, an independent federal advisory committee representing broad stakeholder interests.

The National Horse & Burro Rangeland Management Coalition supports the Administration’s appropriations request to provide necessary flexibility for BLM to manage wild horses and burros. The Coalition supported the Advisory Board’s recommendation and called for the removal of the appropriations language in its 2017 Transition Document. The Coalition acknowledges the removal of the management restrictions as a critical step to ensure wild horses and burros can continue to thrive alongside our native wildlife on healthy public rangelands.

BLM is currently burdened with caring for more than 45,000 un-adopted wild horses and burros in holding facilities, costing taxpayers nearly $50 million per year. On-range populations of wild horses and burros continue to increase, with the March 2017 report indicating a population of 73,000 individuals—well above the ecologically-based population objective of less than 27,000. The already limited number of on-range gathers conducted by BLM should not be reduced to lower the cost of the program.

Adoption demand is not high enough to match the on-range population growth rates. Limited fertility control efforts are not effective in reducing populations. The financial burden of housing thousands of horses and burros has restricted the agency’s ability to manage horse and burro populations on the rangelands—and as a result, the health of those rangelands continues to decline, with negative implications for native wildlife, the health of the horses and burros, and other multiple-uses of our country’s rangelands.

Removal of the restricting appropriations language, combined with increased gather and removal efforts, will help ensure healthy rangelands for future generations to come. Healthy rangelands allow native wildlife to thrive, livestock to graze to support local communities, wild horses and burros to live healthy lives, and water quantity and quality to be sustained. Healthy rangelands are essential to the Western way of life. Removal of the appropriations language removes roadblocks to the effective management of on-range populations of wild horses and burros.

Congress must now act to remove the restrictive appropriations language, providing the tools necessary for BLM to meet the obligations of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and manage wild horses and burros in a “thriving natural ecological balance.”

Read language from the FY 2018 Appropriations Request

“The budget reflects a $10.0 million program reduction to the Wild Horse and Burro Management program. The consistent growth in annual costs for the program is unsustainable and constrains the Bureau’s ability to effectively address competing uses of public lands, as the number of animals on the range and in BLM holding facilities grows. Over the past eight years, the program’s budget has more than doubled, rising from $36.2 million in 2008 to $80.4 million in 2017. Despite these increases, the program remains far from achieving a key statutory obligation under the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971: maintaining animal populations on the range at appropriate management levels. The WHB program has been principally consumed by the cost to care for excess animals in off-range facilities. The current program is unsustainable and a new approach is needed, particularly when overall Federal funding is so constrained. As such, the budget proposes to give BLM the tools it needs to manage this program in a more cost-effective manner, including the ability to conduct sales without limitation. The budget proposes to eliminate appropriations language restricting BLM from using all of the management options authorized in the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act. The remainder of the funding decrease will be achieved by reducing gathers, reducing birth control treatments and other activities deemed inconsistent with prudent management of the program. The long-term goal is to realign program costs and animal populations to more manageable levels, enabling BLM to reorient the WHB program back to these traditional management strategies.”