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BLM Wild Horse and Burro Management


2013/07/01

A 14-member committee of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) reviewed the BLM’s wild horse and burro management issues over two years, and issued their findings to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on June 6, 2013. The resulting report, entitled “Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: A Way Forward,” was commissioned by the BLM.

The NAS prepared an independent assessment of scientific-related issues related to the agency’s management of wild horses and burros on Western public rangeland. It concluded that BLM's removal of nearly 100,000 horses from the Western range over the past decade is probably having the opposite effect of its intention to ease ecological damage and reduce overpopulated herds. “By stepping in prematurely when food and water supplies remain adequate, and with most natural predators long gone, the land management agency is producing artificial conditions that ultimately serve to perpetuate population growth,” the committee says in a 451-page report recommending more emphasis on a variety of methods of fertility control to keep horse numbers in check.

Dr. Guy H. Palmer, Chair, Committee to Review the Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse & Burro Management Program, Washington State University said that the committee worked on the project about 18 months, involving all stakeholders and the public. “The starting point was finding common ground among all stakeholders and public – no one wants to see more horses in long-term holding.

“What is the science and best evidence that would support improving the program so that horses are no longer going into these long-term facilities?” Dr. Palmer explained. “We looked at both what science is needed and at what opportunities are to induce change, at present. So the science that underlies this is to better understand the populations on public lands, so that they can be better managed; and we can better understand what the actual numbers of horses are. This will allow us to make sure we are managing them for genetic health. …It allows us to assess the impact of any strategies to control their numbers. …It will also make it more transparent so the public is more engaged in it.

“In addition to the science, there are current things we can implement now to reduce the growth rate on the horses. We want to do this for two reasons: (1) if the horses continue to grow regardless of how much range land is allocated to them, …the range land loses its quality (it’s destroyed for use for other wild animals); (2) eventually the horses themselves will become ill and unthrifty due to inadequate feed and inadequate access to water.

“We want to reduce the growth rate to something that can be managed so that the horses, rather than being taken off lands into long-term holding facilities, can actually be maintained on the land as a thriving genetic population – which is the goal of the program.”

See Dr. Palmer’s video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phwOcmY2PsE

Statement from BLM:

“The Bureau of Land Management today welcomed the findings and recommendations of a 14-member committee of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) that reviewed the BLM’s wild horse and burro management issues over a two-year period. The resulting report, entitled “Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: A Way Forward,” was commissioned by the BLM, which requested the NAS to perform and prepare an independent assessment of numerous scientific-related issues related to the agency’s management of wild horses and burros on Western public rangelands.”

Read full statement at:
http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/newsroom/2013/june/nr_06_05_2013.html

Report on BLM [Download PDF]



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