The Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse and Burro Program

The Wild Multiple-Use Mission of the BLM

The Bureau of Land Management is an agency under the United States Interior Department which is in charge of protecting, managing, and controlling wild horses and burros that are actively roaming across an area of the Western public rangelands that measure up to about 32 million acres. The BLM has an overall multiple-use mission, and the management of these animals is an integral part of that, as set forth in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976. All in all, there are 253 million acres of public land that are managed by the BLM, all of which are located majorly within 12 Western states, including the state of Alaska.

The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed by the federal government in 1971 and with it came the discovery of the fact that these ‘special animals’ lacked substantial legal protection and due to this, they were disappearing quickly for the American landscape. This is the main issue that the law tried to combat and it has brought forth good results as forty years on from the propounding of these laws, wild horses have experiences successive periods of substantial and sporadic growth under the protection of the federal government.   

Gathering Wild Horses and Burros from Ranges

Due to the fact that wild horses and burros were suddenly (and sporadically) increasing in number and population, the BLM was tasked with removing tens of thousands of these wild horses and burros from the rage on an annual basis in order to protect the public rangelands from the harsh environmental effects that came from the overpopulation of the herd. The BLM has determined that in order to be on the safe side, every public rangeland has to have a population of 10,000 wild horses and burros. However, the number of these creatures quickly crossed the 35,000 mark and overcrowding move d from being a potential threat to an imminent one. It goes without saying that the natural ecosystem of the public rangelands (which are an awesome source of wildlife) will not be able to withstand the size of the impact that comes from overcrowded herds.

Based on the data which was recorded in 2009, the Bureau of Land Management has estimated that there are almost 37,000 wild horses and burros (to be exact, 33,100 wild horses and 3,800 burros) that are roaming about on rangelands which are managed by them. These animals have no natural predators and it is also highly possible for their herd sizes to be double within a period of 4 years. To this aim, and in order for them to be able to control sizes of herds, it is of utmost importance for the agency to remove a vast number of animals.

The BLM also directed that there should be a current population of free-roaming wild horses and burros, all of which must live and exist within the provisions and boundaries of the environmental resources and ends in the public rangelands.

It is also worth noting that over 30,000 wild horses and burros that the BLM is fully in charge of. These animals are all fed and catered for by the BLM under the provision of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. The act serves as the authority under which the BLM operates and it also serves to act as a guide for the treatment of the wild horses and burros.

In order to ensure the fact that the sizes of herds are in complete accordance and balance up with the available resources and uses of the public rangelands, the BLM, in the fiscal year of 2009, decided to take out 6,413 wild horses and burros. They went on to place 3,487 of these animals into the private care of interested individuals via an adoption process that was created and implemented by them. It should be worth noting that the 3,487 animals that were adopted in 2009 are far less than the 5,701 that were adopted in 2005. From 1971 (when the adoption process was officially inaugurated and kept functional), the BLM has been able to successfully adopt out more than 25,000 horses and burros.

The herds of horses and burros have been shown to grow at a rate of 20 percent per year and they have the ability to double in size every four years. As per Section 1333 of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the BLM have chosen adoption as a means of removing excess horses and burros so as to create more room for others who are born (or who join in through other means).

Controversy and Accusations

However, over the years, there have been widespread criticisms of the motives and operations of the BLM as regards their treatment of wild horses and burros, especially regarding their motive for keeping them, as many people have come up with reports that they plan on selling them to be used for slaughter. Reports have stated that the BLM uses illegal methods to collect their horses and burros, with most of them citing helicopter roundups which end up leaving the creatures either severely injured or dead.

The Wild Horse and Burros Program sold 1,794 wild horses to Tom Davis, a rancher based in Colorado who, according to news reports, sent the horses to the slaughterhouse between the years of 2009 and 2012. The reports also stated that the BLM went against its policy of limiting the sales of the animals to a specific number as well as ensuring that the animals went to a safe and welcoming home. Investigations launched revealed that David bought an inordinately large amount of wild horses each time and BLM workers tried to confront him or verify the information that he provided in relation to his intentions, even though they were regularly selling a very large number of horses that they were selling to him at each time.

Regardless of that, though, the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program still keeps moving strong. Plans for the future have not been clearly stated, but the optimism is clear.