Horse and Burro Coalition Launches Information Campaign

By Caroline E. Murphy

©BLM Nevada

The National Horse and Burro Rangeland Management Coalition (NHBRMC), currently chaired by The Wildlife Society, has launched an information and education campaign to inform the public of the issues surrounding horse and burro overpopulation on western rangelands.

Currently, the NHBRMC estimates over 64,000 horses and burros roam Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rangelands, based on a high growth rate and minimal management actions in 2015. This population is more than twice the BLM-determined ecologically tolerable level of 27,000 individuals. The campaign involves commercials that focus on many different facets that would benefit from improved wild horse and burro management, such as wild horse and burro herd health, native wildlife, rangeland ecosystems, human uses of rangelands, and effective use of taxpayer dollars.

Free-roaming horses and burros will continue to increase in population by 18-20 percent annually without improved management actions. This compounding problem has had major consequences for native wildlife populations that are dependent on rangelands, some of which are in competition with horses and burros for food and water resources such as elk and bighorn sheep. Horses and burros also degrade rangelands by consuming and stomping on grasses and sagebrush that fragile greater sage-grouse populations rely on.

Situations such as these will only get worse if horses and burros are left in the same state of passive management. To help alleviate this, NHBRMC recommends increased rates of horse and burro removals from western rangelands into adoptions and off-range holding facilities.

“Wild horses and burros are an iconic aspect of western North America. However, continued uncontrolled growth of horse and burro herds is threatening everything else that relies on healthy rangelands,” said Keith Norris, Chair of NHBRMC in a press release. “Improved management actions are needed to ensure that horse and burro populations remain in balance with the ecosystem’s ability to support them and all of the other uses of our public’s rangelands.”

The commercials will air on 9News in Denver, CO, as well as numerous national organizations’ social media pages and websites. The commercials can also be seen on NHBRMC’s newly relaunched webpage,, where more can be learned about the coalition as well as the effects of horse and burro overpopulation. The website also provides information on how individuals can get involved in efforts to protect horse and burro populations and rangelands.

For more information, check out TWS’ position statement and fact sheet on feral horses and burros.

Improved management actions are needed to protect the rangeland ecosystem

Improved management actions are needed to protect native wildlife.

Caroline Murphy is the Government Relations Program Coordinator at The Wildlife Society.

Read more of Caroline's articles.