U.S. looking for ideas to manage wild horse overpopulation
So far there is nothing obvious on the BLM Wild Horse and Burro website that says how to submit your ideas for their new initiative on managing the US wild horses and burros. **Retraction – we accidentally printed a different person at the BLM as the point of contact. ~ HfH
From: The Santa Fe New Mexican
By: By Lenny Bernstein and Brady Dennis of The Washington Post
When Velma Johnston almost single-handedly persuaded Congress to pass the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, her goal was to protect an icon of the American West that had been slaughtered, poisoned and abused and was quickly disappearing.
More than four decades later, the woman known as “Wild Horse Annie” would undoubtedly be shocked by what her law has wrought: So many mustangs, stashed in so many places, that authorities admit they have no idea how to handle them all.
Under the law, the federal government is responsible for more than 40,000 mustangs on the range in 10 Western states, where they compete with cattle and wildlife for increasingly scarce water and forage. The public desire to adopt them is limited. Contraceptive efforts have largely failed. U.S. law — reaffirmed this month — effectively precludes slaughtering them, or selling them to anyone who would. Activists want the horses left on the land.
Solving the decades-old problem is the task of the federal Bureau of Land Management. Already it manages 50,000 horses and burros it has rounded up and sent to pastures and corrals. But it is rapidly running out of places for more.
Now, by devoting about $1.5 million from the new budget agreement for fiscal 2014, the agency is ready to take another shot at one of the West’s most intractable wildlife problems. It is inviting anyone with a legitimate idea of how to curb the horse and burro populations to step up and propose it. The agency will study the ones it finds most promising and try again to find a solution.
“We need all the help we can get,” said Ed Roberson, the BLM’s assistant director of resources and planning.
The agency periodically takes wild horses from 179 “herd management areas” it controls on 31.6 million acres, mostly when they threaten to overwhelm the available food and water or destroy the surroundings, officials said. It sends them to private pastures if space is available and holds the rest in corrals.
Not only do these efforts feature the unfortunate visual of panicked mustangs fleeing low-flying helicopters, but activists and others have claimed that horses have been injured and treated inhumanely during roundups.
“We don’t have an overpopulation problem,” said Anne Novak, executive director of Protect Mustangs, a horse advocacy group. “The only overpopulation problem is in the holding pens.”
The BLM says that the open range it manages can support 26,677 horses and burros, and estimates that 40,605 are roaming that land. A National Research Council study released in June concluded that the agency may have undercounted by 10 to 50 percent, and that horse populations were probably growing at 15 to 20 percent every year.
The mustangs, offspring of horses left behind by miners, ranchers, Native Americans and others, have no natural predators, except for an occasional mountain lion or bear. Left alone on the range, the agency predicts, their population would soar to 145,000 by 2020.
Meanwhile, the BLM is sheltering and feeding 33,608 horses in pastures at $1.30 per head each day, and 16,160 horses and burros in “short-term corrals” at four times the expense, officials said. (The temporary stays can last as long as 18 months.)
Joan Guilfoyle, chief of the BLM’s wild horse and burro division, predicted that the holding areas in states such as Kansas and Oklahoma will chew up 64 percent of the $77 million Congress gave the program for fiscal 2014.