Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Euthanizing wild horses in the West
As we all should know, there has plenty of controversy over how our wild horses and burros have been managed by the BLM over the years. Ever since the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act was passed, issues concerning budgets, ranchers, droughts, forage, etc have existed. The time has now become more critical than ever. The BLM is granted a budget each year to "manage" the animals on both the open range and in holding facilities. There are currently 33,000 wild horses on the range, mostly in Nevada. Range managers say an acceptable level would be 27,300. Meanwhile 30,000 horses reside in long or short-term holding facilities, depending upon their age and adoption potential. Last year, the BLM spent $22 million of its $39-million budget on holding facilities. Next year's costs for maintaining horses at holding facilities are projected to account for $26 million of the agency's total $37 million budget. The BLM has long had the legal option to euthanize for management purposes but has been reluctant to exercise it. Instead, it relied on adoptions to reduce herds. In 2007 4,700 wild horses were adopted into private homes, a slide from the 5,700 adopted in 2005. Critics say the reason for the "logjam" is that the BLM spends most of its budget on roundups but very little on adoptions. No matter what your view on the wild horse issues are, your tax dollars are being spent. From 2003 through 2006, BLM Nevada only spent around $2 million a year on roundups, just under half of its entire budget. During the same time, it spent a mere $122,000 a year on adoptions. Is it any wonder the pens are filled up? I live in Nevada, where most of the herds reside, and its amazing how many people do not know wild horses and burros still exist, much less know that they can adopt one and give it a second chance. There are tons of articles about how the horses are "gathered" due to drought and forage, but there are also tons of articles about how the cattle ranchers are concerned that the horses are taking away from their forage. Whether the BLM stepped up the roundups due to ongoing drought, dwindling forage, and water or if the actions are taken to placate the ranchers, there seems to be no solid protection for the horses and now the BLM is considering euthanizing these animals. There have plenty of mistakes over the years, but I personally feel this would be a disaster. Somewhere down the line, someone has to get this budget straightened out and in check, focusing more money to the adoptions and the adoption process. Alternative methods such as fertily control and contraceptives have to be considered to keep the AML under control on the range so that more and more "gathers" do not take place and add to our problem. No matter what your views are on wild horses, please help spread the word about the BLM Adoptions for the wild horses and burros. You can find a link to the Wild Horse and Burro Adoptions on my page. The process is simple and the current regulations and requirements are easy to meet and maintain. Any internet search engine will provide you with the latest news and opinions over the last few weeks regarding this issue. Please take the time to consider America's horses, they are in desperate need of our help. I have included below the most recent statement by the BLM regarding the euthanization of the animals from their website if you are interested.
The Bureau of Land Management is facing a number of difficult challenges in the National Wild Horse and Burro Program. Our goal in the West is to manage healthy, free-roaming herds on healthy rangelands; however, it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so.
Wild horses and burros in the West have virtually no natural predators and their herd sizes can double about every four years. As a result, the agency must remove thousands of animals from Western public rangelands each year to ensure that herd sizes are consistent with the land’s capacity to support them. As of June 2008, there are more than 30,000 wild horses and burros that are fed and cared for at short-term and long-term holding facilities. It is essential to keep the BLM’s wild horse and burro program in balance. Right now, the cost of keeping these animals in holding facilities is spiraling out of control and preventing the agency from successfully managing other parts of the program. For example, this fiscal year, holding costs will exceed $26 million, more than three-fourths of the BLM’s congressional appropriation of about $37 million for this program.
In addition, rising energy prices have increased costs. In one year alone, energy costs for transportation and feed have increased almost $4 million. It is clear the agency cannot continue current removal and holding practices under existing and projected budgets. Neither can the BLM allow horses to multiply unchecked on the range without causing an environmental disaster. That's why the BLM is exploring options to exercise its legal authority to (1) sell older and certain other unadopted animals “without limitation” to any willing buyers and (2) euthanize those wild horses and burros for which no adoption demand exists. We know this is not a popular option, but we are at a critical point where we must consider using the legal authorities allowed us.
The BLM welcomes your input as we work to improve the program and the welfare of the West’s wild horses and burros within our budget. To leave feedback on this program, please click here or call 1-800-710-7597.