As of 2022, more than 82,000 feral horses and burros roam lands and waters managed by the Bureau of Land Management, about three times the BLM's population goal. Over half live in Nevada, the most arid state in the union, where their ecological impacts are devastating. Desertification and massive loss of habitat for critters ranging from pollinators and other insects to greater sage grouse, elk, mule deer and pronghorn threaten the natural balance for native species across all taxa.
At BHA, we rely on the North American Model of Conservation to guide our decisions regarding wildlife and wild places. Feral horses and burros are unlike wildlife or livestock, which are managed either by state and federal agencies or livestock owners, and are federally protected under the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. The BLM lacks adequate resources to execute the management framework to oversee population growth while remaining fiscally sustainable, and state wildlife management agencies in Western states shoulder much of the burden.
As a result, BHA urges management agencies, conservation organizations, rangeland scientists, and other stakeholders to support and advocate for the following solutions:
- Congress must appropriate adequate long-term funds for U.S. rangeland management agencies to develop and implement programs that reduce feral horse and burro populations to within appropriate management levels (AMLs) as defined by the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, continually survey feral horse and burro populations on federally managed lands, and report to Congress annually on the impacts to wildlife and degradation or loss of habitat on federally managed lands caused by feral horses and burros.
- AMLs must be set and adjusted by U.S. land management agencies on a herd-by-herd basis through existing processes for evaluating and analyzing environmental impacts with public input. These processes include, but are not limited to, resource management plans, forest plans, multiple-use determinations and other land-use decisions guided by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. Feral horse and burro populations must not exceed AMLs to protect the health of rangelands, maintain a natural ecological balance for wildlife habitat, and conserve water and riparian resources. If feral horse and burro populations exceed established AMLs and carrying capacity on federal lands, herd sizes must immediately be reduced to meet AMLs.
- Conduct targeted gathers or removals at over-populated herd management areas (HMAs) in the U.S. to help reduce herd size to within AMLs.
- Attempt to relocate horses and burros taken off the range or in holding facilities to humane pasture facilities funded through cost-effective public-private partnerships.
- Promote adoptions in order to reduce captive populations and off-range holding costs.
- Manage herds of captive or unadoptable feral horses and burros as non-reproducing populations. Ensure that gathered horses and burros are treated by the most effective long-term population control methods endorsed by professional wildlife managers prior to their return to rangelands in order to maintain populations within AML standards.
Sign the petition and support the science-based efforts of BLM and state wildlife management agencies to protect fish and wildlife populations, habitat and water resources, and the ecological balance critical to sustaining a healthy future for the West.
View BHA’s North American Policy Statement and policy recommendations for feral horses and burros.