American Wild Horse Campaign questions new BLM data claims on-range wild horse population growth

This week, in light of the recent release of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s  2023 Wild Horse and Burro Program gather schedule and population data, the American Wild Horse Campaign is raising concerns about the unsustainable path the agency continues to follow and is reigniting calls to prioritize on-range solutions, including humane fertility control.

The BLM, which is charged with managing the vast majority of the West’s wild herds, is planning to round upmore than 7,000 wild horses and burros and permanently remove 5,857 from federal lands beginning in July. This is a marked departure from the agency’s proposed plans to remove 20,000 animals yearly over the next several years. Yet according to AWHC, the BLM currently does not have enough funds to move forward with that plan as there are currently over 61,000 wild horses and burros in its care.

“It’s not as if 60,000 mustangs and burros walked up and let themselves into BLM holding facilities,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director for AWHC. “The BLM has created this crisis by catering to private interests, removing thousands more wild horses than could be placed into private care. It is now more important than ever that the BLM utilize the readily available humane fertility control at a meaningful scale.”

Last Friday, the agency released its Fiscal Year 2023 wild horse and burro population data suggesting a slight increase in on-range population numbers on western public lands. AWHC charges that the BLM’s estimate is questionable not only in light of the large-scale removals last year, but also considering mortality caused by the historically harsh winter in the West.

“If taken at face value, the increase shows that the agency’s inhumane wild horse roundups have failed to even create short-term progress toward achieving its population goals,” continued Roy. “Meanwhile, it has created a long-term fiscal crisis by rounding up more than 20,000 animals, skyrocketing the captive holding population to all-time highs.”

In December, Congress included an important bipartisan wild horse protection measure in the final Fiscal Year 2023 appropriations omnibus.

The measure requires the BLM’s Program to utilize up to $11 million for reversible immunocontraceptive fertility control in FY23 to sustainably manage wild horses and burros.

Despite this directive, the BLM only plans to implement fertility control on a mere 1,575 animals. According to AWHC, the agency spent more than $100 million of taxpayer funds last year to round up wild horses from public lands and warehouse them in holding facilities, while a fraction was spent on humane fertility control to manage the herds on the range.

“Ten years ago, scientific experts told the agency that there is a better way to manage wild horses, and it’s beyond time for the BLM to implement humane fertility control at the scale necessary to stabilize populations over the long term as an alternative to the current costly and cruel roundup approach,” concluded Roy. “We remain hopeful that the BLM will soon increase its treatment goals as awards are made under last year’s fertility control grant opportunity.”

About the American Wild Horse Campaign
The American Wild Horse Campaign is the nation’s leading wild horse protection organization, with more than 700,000 supporters and followers nationwide. AWHC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. In addition to advocating for the protection and preservation of America’s wild herds, AWHC implements the largest wild horse fertility control program in the world through a partnership with the State of Nevada for wild horses that live in the Virginia Range near Reno.