National Monuments & Wild Horses and Burros: A Closer Look

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Recently, President Trump signed an Executive Order that would review 27 National Monuments on federal lands and waters that were created as far back as 1996.  Of those, 22 are located in 10 Western states.

How will this order affect wild horses and burros on our public lands?  Because it’s not clear what the review will ultimately involve and decide, AWHC doesn’t yet know the full ramifications.  But we are on alert. 

As a first step, AWHC asked the BLM for a list of Herd Areas (HAs) and Herd Management Areas (HMAs) that either fall partially or entirely within National Monuments.  Its response: 17 HAs and 3 HMAs in Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Utah.

Only one actively managed HMA lies completely within a National Monument: The Gold Butte National Monument includes the Gold Butte HMA, which is home to an estimated 365 federally protected wild burros.

In addition, two HAs – areas that were originally designated as habitat for wild horses but from which the BLM eliminated wild horses (“zeroed out”) and changed to inactive management status – are completely within National Monuments. The Piute Mountain HA in the Mohave Trails National Monument (CA) is still home to 65 wild horses, according to BLM’s 2016 population estimates. And the Ervin Ridge HA, located within the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument (MT), is listed as having no wild horses living there as of 2016. 

Two HMAs partially within National Monuments are the Silver King HMA in the Basin and
Range National Monument (NV) with an estimated population of 912 wild horses and the Pokegama HMA in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument (OR) where 85 wild horses currently reside.

Under the American Antiquities Act of 1906, presidents are authorized to declare lands and waters with significant cultural, scientific, and historic value as National Monuments and restrict their use.  Since 1996, using this Act, Presidents Bush, Obama, and Clinton have placed hundreds of millions of acres in federal protection.  No other presidents have challenged these designations – or worked to abolish them.

However, President Trump believes this protection established by his three predecessors is "a massive federal land grab" that has "gotten worse and worse and worse, and now we're going to free it up, which is what should have happened in the first place."

While the National Monument debate is likely to have limited impacts on wild horses and burros, AWHC is concerned about the larger political forces pushing for the federal government to surrender these and other public lands to state control. This outcome could result in restricted public access, industrial development, and increases in livestock grazing – presenting serious threats to the wild horses and burros living on our public lands.

Many of the same officials pushing for state control of federal lands have also been actively lobbying for state management of our wild herds on federal rangelands in order to remove massive numbers and institute slaughter as a means of controlling their population.  

AWHC will continue to advocate for federal control of our wild horses and burros – who are the national legacy of all Americans – and push for humane management while standing firm against mass roundups and slaughter.

Comments about the review of the National Monuments may be submitted online after May 12 at by entering “DOI-2017-0002” in the Search bar and clicking “Search,” or by mail to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240.