The Bureau of Land Management put out a press release Monday saying something needs to be done about the excessive number of wild horses and burros on the open range in the West, pointing out the number of these once domestic animals has grown by two and a half times the number estimated to be in existence when the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed in 1971 and exceeds the number the range can sustain by 40,000.
There are already 46,000 wild horses and burros in off-range pens and pastures at a cost of $50,000 per animal over its lifetime — a cost of $2.3 billion just for the ones already being warehoused. The press release said the agency plans to roundup another 3,500 wild horses and burros this year, a drop in the bucket when it comes to curbing overpopulation which grew by more than 8,000 in the past year alone — another $175 million for care and feeding at taxpayer expense.
“Over the past seven years we have doubled the amount of funding used for managing our nation’s wild horses and burros,” BLM Director Neil Kornze is quoted as saying. “Despite this, major shifts in the adoption market and the absence of a long-term fertility control drug have driven population levels higher. A number of program reforms are underway, but assistance is needed from our local, state, and federal partners.”
A decade ago the BLM was adopting out 8,000 mustangs a year but that number has fallen to 2,500.
The press release goes on to say the BLM is taking a number of steps to address the problem, including sponsoring a significant research program focused on fertility control. The press release, inconveniently enough, comes two days after the BLM ended a fertility control experiment in the Pine Nut Range near Gardnerville because some animal rights group threatened to sue.
The release also mentions moving horses from corrals to more cost-effective pastures and working to increase adoptions.
Of course, the BLM’s statements were immediately attacked as false by one those self-styled animal rights groups. The head of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, Suzanne Roy, said, “The BLM’s claims of wild horse overpopulation are grossly exaggerated and designed to dupe the public into accepting the continued costly, cruel and unsustainable roundup, removal and stockpiling program. We don’t have an excess wild horse problem, we have a federal mismanagement problem.”
But nowhere does the BLM or anyone else for that matter address a solution that was written into the original 1971 wild horse law. That law states any excess unadoptable horses or burros are “to be destroyed in the most humane and cost efficient manner possible.” In a silly budget busting provision it also says none of the “remains may be sold or transferred for consideration for processing into commercial products.” What’s the point of that?
Lest you conclude the BLM is flouting the law, it should be noted that this inscrutable Congress also says in the bill appropriating money for the Interior Department for 2015-16: “Prohibits appropriations provided by this bill from being used for: (1) the destruction of healthy, unadopted, wild horses and burros in the care of the BLM or its contractors, or (2) the sale of wild horses and burros that results in their destruction for processing into commercial products.”
Congress won’t spend the money to manage the horses or reduce their numbers.
The governor of Nevada has threatened to sue over the mismanagement of wild horses, which threatens to cut grazing rights for ranchers and damages the habitat for other native species.
Everyone insists on humane treatment for these invasive species but never seems to recognize that overpopulation leads to problems with the animals finding adequate grazing and water — which in itself is inhumane.