National Coalition Blasts BLM for “Scientifically Unsound and Deceptive” Claims of Mustang Overpopulation

Problem is BLM mismanagement, not “excess” wild horses, group says

The country’s largest wild horse advocates coalition, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), today responded to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) release of 2016 wild horse and burro population estimates by blasting the agency for misleading [or “deceptive”] claims of wild horse overpopulation, which are based on unscientific and arbitrary BLM-imposed “appropriate” management levels (AMLs).

“Wild horses are present on just 12 percent of federal rangelands, which they share with livestock, and their habitat has shrunk by 40% over the last four decades,” said Suzanne Roy, AWHPC Executive Director. “The feds consider 70,000 wild horses and burros in the West to be overpopulated, yet the 70,000 remaining big horn sheep are highly ‘endangered.’”

“The BLM’s claims of wild horse overpopulation are deceptive and designed to dupe the public into accepting the continued costly, cruel and unsustainable roundup, removal and stockpiling program,” she continued. “We don’t have an excess wild horse problem, we have a federal mismanagement problem.”

Roy said that the BLM now warehouses more wild horses in government holding facilities than remain free in the wild, at a cost to taxpayers of more than $140,000 per day.

According to AWHPC, the BLM seeks to drive wild horse populations back to pre-1971 levels when Congress determined that the mustangs were ‘fast disappearing’ and in need of federal protection. Claims of overpopulation are based on BLM-imposed “Appropriate” Management Levels, that allow for a maximum of one horse per 1,000 acres of federally designated habitat.

In 2013, the National Academy of Sciences conducted a thorough review of the BLM Wild Horse and Burro program and concluded it “could not identify a science-based rationale” behind the BLM’s AMLs and that the AMLs were not transparent to stakeholders, supported by scientific information, or amenable to adaptation with new information and environmental and social change.”

AWHPC notes that public support for wild horses is strong. Polls show that 3 in 4 Americans support protecting wild horses and burros on public lands and 80% of Americans oppose horse slaughter.  “The will of the American people is being subverted by an agency determined ultimately to eradicate wild horses from public lands, and they must be stopped before we lose this iconic national treasure”, Roy said.       

Instead of continued roundups, AWHPC promotes BLM reform toward a humane management approach based on:

  • Use of the proven PZP fertility control vaccine to reduce population growth rates.
  • Developing public-private partnerships to implement humane management programs. The AWHPC is currently working through a Cooperative Agreement with the State of Nevada to humanely manage an estimated 2,000 wild horses on over 200,000 acres of habitat under state jurisdiction in northern Nevada’s Virginia Range.
  • Adjusting the artificially low and unscientific AMLs to accommodate current population levels and allow for the preservation of wild horses and burros in genetically viable herds.
  • Developing mechanisms to allow for voluntary retirement of grazing permits in wild horse and burro Herd Management Areas and financial compensation (public or private) to ranchers for grazing permit retirement or non-use of grazing allotments. Compensating ranchers will be far cheaper than continuing to roundup, remove and stockpile wild horses in holding facilities.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is dedicated to defending America’s wild horses and burros to protect their freedom, preserve their habitat, and promote humane standards of treatment. AWHPC’s mission is endorsed by a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations.


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