By Pat Raia, The Horse
A pair of proposed federal bills would remove some wild horse herds from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) management and place them under the jurisdiction of the states and Native American tribes that request it.
The Wild Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act if 1971 federally protects wild horse and burro herds and places them under the BLM’s jurisdiction. The animals reside on Western public rangelands.
Last year, Representative Chris Stewart (R-UT) introduced the Wild Horse Management Act of 2014, which would have preserved all protections under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, but would have allowed states to implement horse and burro management plans that address their specific needs. The proposed legislation died in the 113th Congress.
On July 23, Stewart reintroduced the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Wild Horse Oversight Act of 2015 would allow states to form cooperative agreements to manage herds that cross borders. Under the proposed legislation, the federal government would continue to inventory the horses and burros to ensure that the population numbers as prescribed by the 1971 act.
A twin bill was introduced into the Senate by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT).
In introducing the bill, Stewart said he believes wild herds will do better under state or tribal management.
“States and tribes already successfully manage large quantities of wildlife within their borders,” Stewart said. “If horses and burros were under that same jurisdiction, I’m confident that new ideas and opportunities would be developed to manage the herds more successfully than the federal government.”
Suzanne Roy, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, disagreed.
“Placing the management of our federally-protected wild horses in the hands of the state would be a recipe for disaster because states like Utah, home of the bill's sponsors, have consistently placed commercial interests ahead of the public interest in protecting our public lands and wild horses and burros,” she opined.
Both bills remain pending.