Wild horse board prepares to meet as BLM gathers more horses

The BLM plans to gather excess wild horses at the Saylor Creek Herd Management Area in Idaho. ©BLM Idaho

The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board will meet Oct. 29 to 31 to discuss the federal government’s management of select free-roaming horses and burros — both on public lands and in pastures — that are designated ‘wild’ under federal law.

The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board is a federal advisory committee comprised of stakeholders representing a diverse range of interests, which 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 public meeting will be live-streamed on Oct. 30 and 31. Members of the public can address the board in person on Oct. 31, provided they register with the BLM at the meeting at least 30 minutes prior to the start of the public comment period. Written comments can also be submitted to whbadvisoryboard@blm.gov.

In March, the BLM estimated that approximately 88,090 wild horses and burros roamed BLM-managed public lands in 10 Western states, the most ever since the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed in 1971. The BLM has determined that the total appropriate management level for all heard management areas across the country is 26,690.

In light of an overall population that’s more than three times higher than the public lands can sustain alongside native wildlife and other uses, the BLM continues to gather horses from public lands. The agency plans to gather about 150 horses from the Saylor Creek Herd Management Area in Idaho. The agency’s appropriate management level for this herd management area is less than 50 individuals, yet the population in that area is on track to be at about 170 horses by summer 2020, when the gather is expected to occur, although an exact date for the gather has not been released.

After the BLM removes about 150 horses, it will apply fertility control on 25 of the horses, which it will then release back onto the range, according to a recently approved environmental analysis. The fertility control applications are designed to help slow population growth and maintain populations below the area’s appropriate management level and minimize the need for future gathers and removals.

The BLM is also planning a gather at the Fifteenmile Wild Horse Herd Management Area in northern Wyoming, where it hopes to remove about 600 horses. The goal is to reduce that herd to between 100 to 230 horses. That gather was scheduled to take place on Oct. 17.

The Wildlife Society has regularly advocated for federal agencies to reduce populations of free-roaming horses and burros on public lands. The invasive species can compete with native wildlife and damage their habitats.

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.

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