Wild Horse and Burro Program

What is the Wild Horse and Burro Program?

The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was established in 1971 to protect wild horses and burros on federal land, placing them under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and United States Forest Service. Today, these western legends have far surpassed sustainable population levels in many areas. In response, Interior Secretary Salazar has proposed a draft management plan, which is the agency’s latest attempt to address the ongoing problem. The proposed plan does not put the program back on a sustainable path. In fact, it continues failed practices of the past.

Why is the current management of the Wild Horse and Burro Program unacceptable?

  • The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) estimates the “appropriate management level” (AML) on the range to be 26,500. There are now more than 37,000 wild horses on the range.
  • The resulting damage to soil, forage, riparian areas, wildlife and habitat is well-documented. The horses themselves often suffer from starvation and dehydration. With a herd reproduction rate of 20 percent per year and no natural predators, the population is capable of doubling in just four years.
  • In addition to the 37,000+ on the range, there are an additional 46,500 horses and burros being held in corrals and pastures, accounting for about 70 percent of the roughly $75 million program budget.
  • Adoptions and sales are far surpassed by supply, especially given the BLM’s unwillingness to sell horses “without limitation."

What parts of the Wild Horse and Burro Program does NCBA support and oppose?

NCBA Opposes:

  • Reducing the amount of gathers.
  • Expanding Horse Management Area’s (HMA), which goes against current statute and is detrimental to multiple-use management of public lands.
  • Unlike livestock, horse numbers and grazing patterns are not managed closely, and herds are not removed seasonally, eventually leading to range degradation. If we simply expand HMAs, rather than manage herd sizes, where does it stop?
  • Converting livestock permits for use by wild horses and burros.

NCBA Supports:

  • Managing population growth through the aggressive and increased use of fertility control; the active management of sex ratios on the range; and the introduction of non-reproducing herds.
  • NCBA encourages cooperative agreements between BLM and private entities to establish preserves on private land only.
  • Including a measure to relax adoption criteria to provide for full title transfer to place more animals in private care.

NCBA Staff Contact

Dustin Van Liew
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I am an NCBA Member...
...because I think they're the greatest national association
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assistance and services to cattlemen across this country.  
-Bob McCan, Texas