June 5, 2013 — The Bureau of Land Management today welcomed the findings and recommendations of a 14-member committee of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) that reviewed the BLM’s wild horse and burro management issues over a two-year period. The resulting report, entitled “Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: A Way Forward,” was commissioned by the BLM, which requested the NAS to perform and prepare an independent assessment of numerous scientific-related issues related to the agency’s management of wild horses and burros on Western public rangelands.
“We commend the National Academy of Sciences for their diligent work on this complex issue,” said Neil Kornze, BLM Principal Deputy Director. “The BLM looks forward to reviewing the report in detail and building on the report’s findings and recommendations to meet the formidable challenges facing the agency in managing wild horses and burros. Our agency is committed to protecting and managing these iconic animals for current and future generations.”
Kornze added, “The BLM shares the committee’s view that although no quick or easy fixes exist to this pressing issue, investments in science-based management approaches, exploring additional opportunities for population control, and increased transparency could lead to a more cost-effective program that manages wild horses and burros with greater public confidence.”
Under the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the BLM is required to manage the public lands under its jurisdiction for multiple uses while protecting the land’s resources. The 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act mandates the Bureau to protect and manage these animals as part of the agency’s multiple-use mission, making sure that herd population levels are consistent with the land’s capacity to support them.
The NAS study looked at issues such as population modeling, annual rates of population growth, fertility-control methods, carrying capacity of various lands that support wild horse herds, genetic diversity in wild horse herds, and predator impact on wild horse population growth.
Among other things, the research committee found that most free-roaming horse herds on public rangelands in the Western U.S. are growing at rates of 15 to 20 percent per year. A population growth rate of 20 percent per year results in a herd’s doubling in size in four years and tripling in six years.
The report will help the BLM build on the reforms that the agency has taken over the past several years to improve program effectiveness, such as the stepped-up use of fertility control, additional measures to ensure the humane care of animals, and further program transparency.
The NAS research committee recommended that the BLM continue to build on its partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey to develop rigorous, practical, and cost-effective survey methods for population monitoring, which will help inform management decisions. The NAS committee further recommended that the BLM take into account the full variety of stakeholders, including local communities, in formulating its management plans and called on the BLM to provide greater specificity in its guidance to field managers regarding the establishment and adjustment of appropriate management (i.e., population) levels in its 179 Herd Management Areas across the West.
The BLM will review the report in concert with the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, which advises the BLM and U.S. Forest Service on the management, protection, and control of wild free-roaming horses and burros on public lands administered by those agencies.
More information on the reforms that the BLM has taken in connection with the Wild Horse and Burro Program can be found here.
The NAS report is available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13511.