Agency cites ‘staggering’ cost of reining in US wild horses

May 14, 2020, 7:07 AM | Updated: 7:07 am
FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2011, file photo, two young wild horses play while grazing in Reno, Nev. Fe...
FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2011, file photo, two young wild horses play while grazing in Reno, Nev. Federal land managers say it will take 20 years and cost more than $1 billion over the first six years alone to slash wild horse populations to sustainable levels necessary to protect U.S. range land. (Andy Barron/The Reno Gazette-Journal via AP, File)
(Andy Barron/The Reno Gazette-Journal via AP, File)

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Federal land managers say it will take two decades and cost more than $1 billion over the first six years alone to slash wild horse populations to sustainable levels necessary to protect U.S. rangeland.

The Bureau of Land Management’s latest plans envision capturing 200,000 mustangs over the next two decades. It also wants to build corrals to hold thousands more than current capacity and adopt regulations allowing the permanent sterilization of horses roaming federal lands for the first time.

“The overall funding requirements could be staggering,” the bureau acknowledged in a report to Congress this week.

The strategy underscores the volatility of the decades-long controversy pitting horse advocates against ranchers whose livestock compete for federally subsidized forage across 10 western states.

“The estimates in this analysis are intended to identify to committees the severity of program challenges,” the agency said.

The 25-page report repeats 10 separate times that the estimates “should not be construed to imply Administration support for particular levels of appropriations for this program beyond FY 2021.”

However, it also suggests Congress should put its money where its mouth is when it comes to managing mustangs, noting that language congressional conferees included in the Interior Department’s last appropriation bill states it is “incumbent upon the bureau to request the funding necessary to address this growing problem.”

The bureau says if nothing is done to curb annual growth rates of herds that naturally double every four or five years, the number of wild horses and burros on the range could exceed 2.8 million by 2040.

It stops short of repeating past requests to eliminate prohibitions on the resale of excess horses for slaughter.

But horse defenders said that’s clearly the intention of painting such a dire picture of the challenges. They argue horses grazing federal land are dramatically outnumbered by cattle that cause significantly more ecological damage.

FILE – In this January 2004 file photo, the Bureau of Land Management uses a helicopter for gathering 251 wild horses from the Lahontan Herd Management Area in Nevada. Federal land managers say it will take 20 years and cost more than $1 billion over the first six years alone to slash wild horse populations to sustainable levels necessary to protect U.S. range land. (Lisa J. Tolda/The Reno Gazette-Journal via AP, File)

“By prioritizing the failed approach of mass roundup and warehousing of tens of thousands of wild horses in holding facilities, the agency is setting the stage for the ultimate slaughter of these American icons,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said a more sustainable path would require use of fertility controls, “not surgical sterilization or other inhumane methods.”

“This report envisions massive roundups without a viable plan for dealing with the horses once they’ve left the range,” he said. “It’s almost as if the BLM is setting itself up for failure.”

The bureau maintains the range can only support 27,000 horses — something horse advocates dispute.

The agency said it captured 80,000 horses and burros during the 1990s. By 2000, about 48,000 remained on the range, with 10,000 in holding facilities. Now, it estimates 88,000 roam the range, with 47,000 in government corrals and off-range pastures.

It plans more contraception research but warns “using only short-term fertility control vaccines at any scale” won’t significantly reduce on-range populations.

Kaitlynn Glover, executive director of the Public Lands Council and National Cattlemen Beef Association Natural Resources, said the report “provides clear and welcome recognition of the hard decisions that are necessary to protect our rangelands and the animals themselves.”

Nevada Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Doug Busselman said accelerated roundups and sterilizations are long overdue.

“The current condition of over-population is not acceptable,” he said.

Congress allocated $80 million annually for the efforts from 2011 to 2019. The bureau estimates it needs $900 million over the first five years to rein in herds — $116 million next year, growing to $238 million by year five.

“With potentially more than 250,000 animals being held in off-range pastures, a spike in daily feed rates could dramatically increase out-year funding needs,” it said.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

As temperatures in the state plummet far below zero, advocates with Unsheltered Utah built an unsan...
Devin Oldroyd

Unsheltered Utah opens warming tent for unhoused people to escape frigid temperatures

As temperatures in the state plummet far below zero, advocates with Unsheltered Utah built an unsanctioned makeshift warming tent Monday.
19 hours ago
snow shovel driveway dialysis...
Mark Jones

Cold weather causes late start for Logan City School District Wednesday

LOGAN, Utah — Frigid temperatures in Northern Utah have forced the Logan City School District to run on a two-hour delayed start on Wednesday, Feb. 1. An updated forecast by the National Weather Service says those in and around Logan could experience wind chills as low as negative 30 degrees. As such, all schools in […]
19 hours ago
A pair of bills in the Utah Legislature address if and how Utah teens could use social media. One w...
Lindsay Aerts

Bill would require parental permission for Utah teens to use social media

Two bills circulating at the 2023 Utah Legislative Session involve social media, parents, and their teens. A group of tech CEOs opposes one.
19 hours ago
Centerville Police department...
Elizabeth Weiler

Centerville Police restate “guardian over warrior” mantra

"Our role in Centerville and in policing in general ... is as a Guardian instead of the Warrior" Sgt. Dingman said. "The relationships we build with the community and how they are treated by our officers is still a priority."
19 hours ago
A bill working its way through the Utah Legislature could open the door for online, private, charte...
Adam Small

Non-public-school students could more easily play sports under a new bill

Bill sponsor, Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-South Jordan, said the bill would level the playing field for some students.
19 hours ago
A west valley police car is pictured. Police are investigating a hit and run...
Elizabeth Weiler

Two employees found unconscious at Northrop Grumman, died later at hospital

Two employees who were reported unconscious at Northrop Grumman Space Systems on Monday later died at a hospital.
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
Agency cites ‘staggering’ cost of reining in US wild horses