On Thursday, February 24, the Bureau of Land Management proposed a vast overhaul of its broken strategy for caring for our country’s wild horse and burro populations. The agency has long depended solely on inhumane roundups to remove wild horses from public lands legally designated for their use.
The BLM outlined its new strategy after intense and prolonged public outcry, including the objections of the ASPCA and our equine welfare partners. We are heartened by the agency’s progressive proposals, including its renewed commitment to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which is studying wild horse management procedures and will make recommendations based on definitive scientific research.
“We’ve taken a top to bottom look at the wild horse and burro program and have come to a straightforward conclusion: We need to move ahead with reforms that build on what is working and move away from what is not,” said BLM Director Bob Abbey in a released statement. “As a first step, we are aiming to increase adoptions and broaden the use of fertility control. And while we do this, we are reducing removals while the NAS helps us ensure that our management is guided by the best available science.”
The BLM’s revised strategy includes:
- Commissioning the NAS to study, among other things, rates of population growth, fertility control methods and land capacity for wild horse herds
- Developing new strategies, including public adoption, for the long-term care of wild horses that are removed from public lands
- Increasing the number of mares administered fertility control from 500 in 2009 to 2,000 annually
- Reducing the number of wild horses removed from public lands over the next two years from 10,000 to 7,600 annually
- Improving and enhancing humane animal care and handling during roundups as well as at long-term care facilities
- Promoting public engagement and recruiting local volunteers to assist with rangeland management
Increasing transparency and openness by giving the public access to horse gathers as well as accurate information about the program in its entirety.
“The ASPCA looks forward to greater transparency in all aspects of the BLM’s wild horse program,” responded Matt Bershadker, ASPCA Senior Vice President. “We are encouraged that the BLM is taking the necessary steps to correct its inhumane and fiscally irresponsible policies before America’s wild horses are completely eradicated, but more than 15,000 wild horses and burros are still slated to be rounded up over the next two years, adding to the tens of thousands of wild horses currently languishing in long-term holding pens.”
As always, the ASPCA will continue to keep a close eye on the fate of these national treasures. To learn more about the BLM’s proposed reforms, please visit the agency’s website at www.blm.gov. A detailed proposal will be posted on the site (pdf) on February 28, after which the public is invited to review it and submit comments via email at [email protected] through March 30.