Chicago (EWA) – A report compiled by wild horse researchers and sponsored by advocacy groups has shed new light on the Wild Horse and Burro Program.
Based on the documentation in the report, Equine Welfare Alliance and Animal Law Coalition call on Congress to refuse any further funding for roundups of wild horses and burros from their federally protected herd areas in the West pending completion of a study of the wild horses and burros program by the National Academy of Sciences. They also urge Congress to allow an agency other than the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or, preferably, an independent commission manage the wild horse and burro program.
By law, the BLM is only authorized to round up “excess” horses; the new evidence proves the BLM is instead rounding up, sterilizing and warehousing wild “non-excess” horses and plans to reduce the population on the range to a level far below a justifiable number.
The proof is in BLM’s own numbers. The BLM states in the 2011 Budget Justification the horses are in ecological balance with their occupied habitat at a population of 26,600. If BLM obtains funding for the planned removals for 2011-2012, the remaining population will be less than 5,700 horses.
The report states, “This is an internal strategy developed in 2004 without Congressional approval or oversight and is a clear violation of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act”. According to the report, the “long-term survival” of America’s wild horses and burros “is in jeopardy”.
Meanwhile, BLM will have 45,955 equines in holding pens creating yet another financial crisis. In FY 2011, roundup, removal and holding costs for the projected 10,746 horses to be removed from the range will be about $31M. The cost of holding and maintaining just the horses rounded-up in 2011-2012 will be $223 million over their lives.
Moreover, according to the report, BLM’s population estimates are inconsistent and lack oversight. BLM’s estimates are not based on the best scientific, peer-reviewed data or obtained using state of the art technology. The Department of Interior’s Office of the Inspector General validated this in an April 2010 report that stated “Interior Lacks a Scientific Integrity Policy”.
One glaring example of the agency’s lack of scientific integrity is the BLM’s use of an annual estimated reproductive rate of 20% across the board. The number, used by the BLM for years, fails to take into account the effect of fertility control, destruction of herd dynamics, viability of the remaining herds and studies reflecting actual reproduction rates of less than 4%. According to the report, this means “there are far fewer wild horses and burros on the range … than the BLM claims”.
If the roundups are not halted now, the NAS Study and any reforms to the Program will be pointless, as very few horses will be left on the range to study or roam free as components of the public lands and to enrich the lives of the American people as mandated by the 1971 Act.
When the majestic Mustangs no longer roam their land, we wonder what Congress will say when asked, why didn't you do something?
The Equine Welfare Alliance is a dues free, umbrella organization with over 125 member organizations. The organization focuses its efforts on the welfare of all equines and the preservation of wild equids. www.equinewelfarealliance.org
Animal Law Coalition is a coalition of pet owners and rescuers, advocates, attorneys, law students, veterinarians, shelter workers, decisionmakers, and other citizens, that advocates for the rights of animals to live and live free of cruelty and neglect. www.animallawcoalition.com
Photo: Meet Sugar and Spice, two of John’s (Holland) rescues that were the inspiration for the Equine Welfare Alliance logo.