BLM to Conduct Survey on Horse Management

By Colleen Hartel

Feral Horses Image Credit: Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has published a notice about their intent to conduct focus groups and interviews of stakeholders and also distribute a national survey to better understand the public’s perceptions, values, and preferences regarding feral horse and burro management.

Feral horses are a non-native, invasive species that threaten native plant and animal communities and often the subject of controversial management decisions. The BLM, which is responsible for managing the more than 49,000 free ranging feral horse and burros roaming western public lands, is conducting the research after it was recommended by the National Academy of Science in a 2013 report, Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: A Way Forward.

“Policy to manage the free-ranging population should be carefully attentive to divergent public values,” the report stated. “It is important to have a management plan that accounts for the opinions and concerns of a variety of stakeholders – not only scientists and advocates but a variety of community members and parties that may have strongly held perspectives on the issue.”

The BLM will conduct 13 focus groups and 12 in-depth interviews of key stakeholders or members of organizations that have previously commented on feral horse and burro program activities to inform the design of nationally distributed survey. Focus group participants will include representatives of wild horse and burro advocacy groups, domestic horse owners, and wild horse adopters in addition to representatives of the Western livestock grazing community, conservationists, hunters, and public land managers.

The BLM aims to use the results to assess the distribution of management preferences in addition to (1) evaluating the benefits and costs of competing rangeland uses and various management options; (2) identifying areas of common ground and opportunities for collaboration with stakeholder groups; and (3) communicating more effectively with the public and with stakeholder groups.

BLM is accepting comments on this proposed process until early May.

Source: Greenwire (March 11, 2015)

Colleen Hartel is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program.

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