BLM Plan to Round Up 6,000 Wild Horses from Public Lands Assailed

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Davis, CA (May 31, 2018) . . . The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC), today harshly criticized the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for its recently posted round up schedule, which reveals agency plans to round up and remove 6,000 wild horses from public lands this summer and fall. AWHC slammed the agency for continuing the same “business as usual practices” that the National Academy of Sciences has called “expensive and unproductive for the BLM and the public it serves.”

AWHC said that the agency’s push to reduce horse populations to the “Appropriate” Management Level would leave wild horse populations at extinction level. For example, the BLM manages 23 million acres of public land in Utah, but authorizes fewer than 2,000 horses to live in the state. That’s one horse per nearly 12,000 acres of BLM land, or the equivalent of six horses in all of Salt Lake City. In Wyoming, where a 2,670-horse removal is planned for August, the BLM allows a maximum of 3,725 horses, or one horse per 5,000 acres of BLM land in the state.

“The BLM’s push to round up horses from our public lands to achieve arbitrary and unscientific population limits not only jeopardizes individual horses, but also entire populations of these federally protected animals,” said Suzanne Roy, Executive Director of AWHC. “Meanwhile, the agency continues to ignore scientifically recommended solutions from studies it commissioned, such as birth control for humanely managing wild horses and burros on our public lands.

“Every one of the horses and burros rounded up by the BLM this summer and fall will be in jeopardy of being slaughtered, over the objections of 80 percent of Americans,” Roy continued, citing the BLM’s 2019 Budget Request, which again seeks permission from Congress to kill and sell “excess”horses and burros for slaughter, and national polling showing Americans overwhelming opposition to slaughter.

AWHC noted that all of the horses removed will be warehoused in short-term holding pens – the most expensive type of holding, which costs taxpayers $5 per horse per day. In 2016, the Office of Inspector General found that the BLM was wasting taxpayer dollars by stockpiling horses in expensive short term holding pens instead of maximizing long-term holding pastures, which are one-third the cost. (In 2017, the BLM spent more to house 10,000 horses in short term holding than it did to house 34,000 horses in long term holding.)

‘The entire BLM mustang roundup effort is giant federal subsidy program for a few wealthy special interest land barons,” Roy concluded. “Our tax dollars are lining the pockets of wealthy ranchers and large livestock companies that profit top to bottom from the system – from lucrative helicopter roundup contracts that pay up to $900 per horse captured – to grazing permittees who run more subsidized livestock on public lands where horses are removed, to the livestock companies who get paid millions of dollars to warehouse horses in feedlot pens.

“Meanwhile, only 3% of America’s beef comes from this massive welfare subsidy, a subsidy not provided to the 97% of private lands ranchers in the U.S.”, added Roy. She noted that if Congress grants BLM’s request for mustang slaughter, the profit center will shift to the “kill buyers” who stand to make millions from the sale of tens of thousands of captured mustangs and burros for brutal slaughter in Mexico and Canada.

The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. Its grassroots mission is endorsed by a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, humane and public interest organizations.

Key Background Facts

  • In 2013, the National Academy of Sciences found that the BLM’s “business as usual practices” of rounding up and removing horses from the range was “expensive and unproductive” and “facilitating high rates of population growth” on the range. The NAS recommended using fertility control as an alternative to roundups; yet the BLM continues to spend 0 percent of its budget on birth control, while 73 percent of its budget is spent to round up, remove and warehouse or place captured horses and burros.
  • Ranchers who graze livestock on public lands pay $1.41 per animal per month to graze on public lands, while the average fee to graze on private lands is over $20 per animal per month. These ranchers see wild horses as competition for cheap, taxpayer subsidized livestock grazing on public lands and push for their removal.
  • Over 80 percent of BLM land grazed by livestock has no wild horses on it. (Livestock graze on 155 million acres of BLM land; wild horses are restricted to fewer than 27 million of those acres.)
  • Approximately 80 percent of available forage in wild horse habitat is allocated to livestock, not wild horses, meaning that livestock also vastly outnumber wild horses on the small amount of public land where wild horse are allowed to live.
  • The BLM’s overpopulation claims are based on the agency’s self-imposed population limits (misleadingly called “appropriate” management levels). However, the NAS found that these population limits lack a “science-based rationale” and “are not transparent to stakeholders, supported by scientific information, or amenable to adaptation.”
  • The BLM’s national population limit for wild horses and burros is 18,000 – 26,700. That’s the same number of wild horses that existed in 1971 when Congress passed a law to protect them because they were “fast disappearing.”