Coalition Calls for Reductions in Feral Horse & Burro

By Colleen Hartel

Horses Image Credit: Bureau of Land Management

The National Horse and Burro Rangeland Management Coalition submitted testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior Environment, and Related Agencies that addresses aspects of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Wild Horse & Burro Program. The President’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2016 only proposed the removal of 2,000 horses and burros from the nation’s rangelands, despite the horse and burro populations exceeding the appropriate management levels (AML) on BLM lands by more than 22,500 animals. Projections based on population growth potential of 20% and planned BLM management actions indicate horse and burro populations could exceed AML by more than 40,000 individuals by the end of FY 2016, putting BLM rangelands at more than 250% capacity.

Keith Norris, TWS’s Assistant Director of Government Affairs & Partnerships, currently chairs the National Horse and Burro Rangeland Management Coalition, which focuses on ecologically-sound approaches to managing horse and burro populations to promote healthy wildlife and rangelands for future generations. This is one of several coalitions TWS Government Affairs staff engages with to advance TWS policy priorities.

“Engaging our partners through coalitions is a great way for TWS to lead the wildlife and natural resource conservation arena to affect policy changes that enable and assist wildlife professionals in managing public trust resources,” says Norris. “The National Horse & Burro Rangeland Management Coalition plays a critical role in advocating for effective management of a very serious overpopulation of non-native horses and burros on our country’s valuable rangelands.”

The coalition’s testimony acknowledges the BLM’s focus on fertility control methods to manage feral horse and burro populations but emphasizes that direct removal of animals from the range is an integral part of returning populations to appropriate management levels and protecting the range. If documented population growth rates continue, feral horse and burro populations will continually degrade rangeland ecosystems.