TWS provides testimony on lack of horse and burro progress

By Laura Bies

Three wild horses from the Lookout Mountain Herd graze on the Ochoco National Forest in Central Oregon. ©U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region

The Wildlife Society provided written testimony about the lack of progress in the federal management of free-roaming horses and burros to the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, which met last week in Washington, D.C.

The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, a federal advisory committee comprised of stakeholders representing a diverse range of interests, provides advice and recommendations to the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service as the agencies carry out their responsibilities under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.

The Wildlife Society provided the testimony for the board to consider as they discussed the path forward for the BLM and USFS’s management of wild horses and burros, which are designated “wild” under federal law. The Society’s comments noted that as on-range populations continue to exceed ecologically sustainable levels, it is increasingly concerned about the lack of progress in implementing management actions that effectively reduce populations to sustainable levels.

TWS stated that “[t]he continued overpopulation of free-roaming horses and burros threatens the ecological integrity of the nation’s public lands while unduly impacting the ability of wildlife professionals to effectively manage and conserve native wildlife species and their habitats on those public lands.”

The Society called on the advisory board to “support and prioritize science-based management solutions that will quickly and effectively reduce the number of on-range ‘wild’ horses and burros to ecologically sustainable levels.” The Wildlife Society has regularly advocated for federal agencies to reduce populations of free-roaming horses and burros on public lands, as the invasive species can compete with native wildlife and damage their habitats.

The advisory board released a set of five recommendations as a result of their meeting, including one recognizing the value of long-term fertility control and sterilization and another encouraging the BLM to continue and expand population surveys of herd management areas and the collection of population baseline data. Others encouraged cooperation with relevant tribal authorities on wild horse and burro management challenges and the continued implementation of the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program by filling the program’s national coordinator position and carrying out the training necessary to move forward with animal welfare audits for gathers and for all off-range care and handling.

Read TWS’s Issue Statement on Feral Horses and Burros in North America.

Laura BiesLaura Bies is a government relations contractor and freelance writer for The Wildlife Society. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science and a law degree from George Washington University. Laura has worked with The Wildlife Society since 2005. Read more of Laura's articles.

Share your thoughts on this article, and others, on our Facebook and Twitter pages.