GAO is right about captive wild horses

Wild horse enthusiasts aren’t going to like this, but the Government Accounting Office has reached an obvious and sensible conclusion: The Bureau of Land Management is going to have to euthanize or sell many of the thousands of once-wild horses it now has in captivity or risk harming the still-wild horses throughout the West that it is supposed to protect.

We say that as strong supporters of the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program throughout the West and, in particular, the BLM’s management of the Little Bookcliffs Wild Horse herd just northeast of Grand Junction. It has managed that herd carefully and conscientiously, with assistance from the local Friends of the Mustangs, for many years.

Throughout the West, the BLM manages some 33,000 wild horses. It routinely gathers horses and puts them up for adoption when they begin to overpopulate their ranges. However, many are too old, lame or wild to be adopted.

The BLM currently has an estimated 30,000 of these horses in holding facilities, and caring for them is
eating up 74 percent of the agency’s wild horse budget. That’s more than $27 million this year that could be used to make wild-horse range improvements or to boost sterilization programs so horse
herds don’t continue to overpopulate their ranges.

No animal lovers want to see these proud icons of the West needlessly killed. And there are other options that may help, including paying ranchers to allow some of the wild horses on their lands.

However, paying to keep once-wild horses in crowded corrals, with little prospect that they will be adopted or freed, is hardly compassionate.

Although the BLM has the authority to euthanize or sell horses, Congress should give the agency a specific mandate to do so now, so that the number of captive horses can be significantly reduced and the money spent to better help those horses still in the wild.


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