October 11, 2018
Federal land managers are so desperate to reduce the staggering number of wild horses held in permanent captivity they will pay $1,000 for every horse you adopt, as long as you promise to provide a good home.
At the same time, the Bureau of Land Management is considering a controversial option that calls for the “unrestricted sale” of up to 110,000 horses and burros and euthanizing another 24,000 over the next decade, even though Congress frowns upon killing healthy equines or selling them for slaughter.
These were some of the ideas aired this week by the BLM’s wild horse advisory board, which convenes annually to craft recommendations for addressing the proliferation of wild horses on the West’s public lands, including in Utah.
Acting BLM Director Brian Steed told the panel, gathered at a Salt Lake City hotel, that the time for deciding on solutions is long past and congressional action will likely be needed to either provide more money to warehouse horses or authorize lethal measures.
“I would be absolutely foolish to say this would be easy, it will not. It will not be done next year. It will take some time,” Steed said. “We will have to make some hard decisions, but I am optimistic we can make those decisions and come up with solutions that are beneficial to viable horse populations and healthy range.”
The agency has been under fire by both sides in the horse debate. Everyone agrees the current course is not only expensive and unsustainable, but also cruel to the animals and hard on the land. Speaker after speaker said years of inaction has resulted in “an ecological train wreck.”
Yet consensus on solutions is nowhere in sight.
Modern horses and burros have been protected under federal law since 1971 because these animals, mostly descended from domestic horses turned loose by Spanish explorers and Anglo pioneers, are viewed as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.”
While free-roaming horses have inspired a generation of animals lovers, they are in conflict with ranchers, who blame them for deteriorating range conditions.
For years BLM has relied on a policy of removing “excess” animalsfrom the range, administering fertility control and and finding new homes for some, while putting the rest in permanent captivity.