Advocates Blast Federal Bill to Allow States and Tribes to Manage Wild Horses


Legislation is Recipe for Slaughter of American Icons, National Coalition Says

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) today reacted strongly to news that Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and Representative Chris Stewart have introduced a bill to allow states and tribes to take over the management of the nation’s federally-protected wild horses and burros from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The national coalition called the bill,Wild Horse Oversight Act of 2015, a recipe for mass slaughter and eradication of these iconic animals who are protected under federal law as “living symbols of the historic an pioneer spirit of the West” that “enrich the lives of the American people.”

“This is a dangerous bill that does not reflect the values of the majority of Americans and should be dead on arrival in the U.S. Congress,” said Suzanne Roy, AWHPC director. “This should be called the “Wild Horse Slaughter Act” because that’s intent behind the bill and that will be the outcome. Allowing states and tribes to seize control of management of federally-protected wild horses and burros would lead to more brutal treatment – including hunting and/or slaughter – of these national icons. This is exactly the sort of treatment Congress sought to prevent when itunanimously passed the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act in 1971.”

According to AWHPC, the pressure to round up wild horses comes from ranchers who view mustangs as competition for cheap, taxpayer-subsidized grazing on public lands. Their narrow commercial interests do not reflect the public will, AWHPC noted, highlighting polls that show the vast majority of Americans oppose horse slaughter and support protecting wild horses on public lands, while just 29 percent want public lands used for livestock grazing.

AWHPC also took aim at claims that wild horses are overpopulating the West, noting that these animals are present on just 17 percent of BLM land available for livestock grazing, and are vastly outnumbered by cattle and sheep.

“We don’t have a wild horse overpopulation problem in this country, we have too many privately-owned cattle and sheep overrunning and destroying our public lands,” Roy concluded, disputing Senator Hatch’s claim that wild horses were harming native wildlife. She noted that, while mustangs are a native reintroduced North American wildlife species, domestic cattle and sheep are not.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving American wild horses and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.



Livestock on 63% of BLM land; wild horses and burros on 11%

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) administers 245 million acres of public lands, of which 155 million acres (63%) are used for livestock grazing. Only 27 million acres of BLM lands (11 percent) are made available as wild horse and burro habitat. This represents a nearly 40 percent reduction in the habitat originally designated for wild horses and burros by Congress in 1971.

BLM Resource Allocation: 97-3 in favor of private livestock

As of October 29, 2014 (the most recent data available) the BLM reports allocation of 12.4 million Animal Unit Months* (AUMs) to ranchers who hold permits to graze cattle and sheep on BLM-managed lands. By contrast, the BLM allocates fewer than 320,000 AUMs of forage to wild horses and burros. (One AUM is equivalent to the amount of forage necessary to feed one cow/calf pair, one horse, two burros or five sheep for a month.)


The BLM currently authorizes 1.2 million AUMs, or the annual equivalent of 100,113 cow/calf pairs on 22 million acres of BLM land in Utah.  By contrast, the BLM Utah only permits 1,956 wild horses and burros who are restricted to 2.1 million acres of BLM land in the state.


The BLM currently authorizes 2.1 million AUMS or the annual equivalent of 172,909 cow/calf pairs on 45 million acres of BLM land in Nevada. By contrast, the BLM Nevada only permits 12,811 wild horses and burros and they are restricted to 14 million acres of BLM land in the state.  


The BLM currently authorizes 1.9 million AUMS, the annual equivalent of 159,490 cow/calf pairs on 18 million acres of BLM land in Wyoming. By contrast, the BLM permits just 3,725 wild horses to live on 3.6 million acres of BLM land in the state. . 

Sources: BLM 2014 Public Lands Statistics and BLM 2015 Herd Management Area/ Herd Area statistics.