Government Proposal Aims to Improve Wild Horse Management


Ken Salazar proposed Mustang sanctuaries to help control and manage wild herdsIn the 1970s, the Bureau of Land Management took over the then-dwindling herds of wild horses and burros to help restore their population. Today wild horse numbers have flourished to the point where management has become a challenge. With no natural predators, overpopulation of wild horses has become a serious environmental concern with an estimated 37,000 wild horses living on western rangelands. The BLM has struggled in recent years to find a solution that is in the best interests of the horses, their habitat, and concerned citizens.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has proposed the creation of Mustang sanctuaries in the east and Midwest to help manage the herds of wild horses and burros currently located in western states where overgrazing, drought and wildfires threaten the horses and their habitat. Additionally, the plan would help find a solution for the nearly 32,000 Mustangs currently in BLM holding areas.

According to the proposal, open grasslands in the east would provide a sustainable habitat for the horses and burros currently roaming the arid west. The new, eastern preserves would be maintained by the BLM, possibly with assistance from other organizations, similar to a previous proposal by Madeleine Pickens. The BLM would continue to manage the population of wild horses through fertility control and management of the male to female ratio in the herds. The proposal would also open up the possibility of gelding the male horses to create non-reproducing herds.

Another key point of the proposal promotes managing the herds as an attraction for ecotourism. According to Salazar’s proposal, this would highlight the importance of wild horses as an American legacy and promote economic growth in rural communities near the eastern and western Mustang preserves.

Critics of the plan include filmmaker Ginger Kathrens, known for her documentary series centered on a Mustang colt known as Cloud. The Cloud Foundation, an organization of wild horse enthusiasts of which Kathrens is executive director, responded to the Salazar’s proposal by suggesting that the horses remain on existing western rangelands rather than being moved across the country.

“It would seem that the best use of taxpayer dollars and the most humane plan for the nearly 32,000 wild horses in government holding would be to return them to their native lands” says Kathrens. “These millions of acres were identified for use by wild horses and burros and these lands are already owned by the American public.”

Some critics have also expressed concern that Salazar’s plan favors cattle ranchers who compete with the wild horses for grazing land and suggest that cattle and other livestock should be removed to make way for Mustangs, not the other way around.

The BLM counters this allegation with the following statement on its website:

The removal of wild horses and burros from public rangelands is carried out to ensure rangeland health, in accordance with land-use plans that are developed in an open, public process. These land-use plans are the means by which the BLM carries out its core mission, which is to manage the land for multiple uses while protecting the land’s resources. Authorized livestock grazing on BLM-managed land has declined by nearly 50 percent since the 1940s; actual livestock grazing on public rangelands is even less than what is authorized because of such factors as drought, wildfire, and climate change impacts.

Salazar’s plan will require authorization from Congress before it can be put into action. For more information, read the BLM’s Q&A on the topic.


  1. Move the darn cows and give the range back to the wild horses. It is a waste of my tax dollars to chase wild horses with heliocopters so they can be stuck in government funded holding pens. Leave them alone.

  2. Last year the blm complained they can’t feed the ones in holding, so they round up some more. Why? they are slowly but surely destroying the Wild Horses of American, rounding them, now trying to geld them and stick them in a petting zoo. Give them back thier 19 million acres that was taken from them and leave them alone. Manage my a__

  3. Setting land aside in the East would be cool, but I think the horses should have precedence over ranchers on public land! After all, horses and burros don’t destroy the quality of the range, whereas cattle does!!

  4. So much money spent to round up, ship and set up holding areas in the east and midwest makes no sense at all! The copter alone run $2000 to $3000 and hour just to do the gather and that is only one tiny part of the complete cost. What a ludicrous plan! Leave the horses on the land they were given in fact give them back the 20 million that has been taken from them and they will be fine and the taxpayer will have a few more pennies in his pocket!

  5. If there really is a problem of overpopulation in the West then I agree with moving some of the horses to other land. But birth control remains a high priority.

  6. Eleven wild horses were killed a week ago in a BLM roundup in CO, they allowed no public viewing, so they could do their dirty work. I’m for returning the wild ones to our public lands, including the 19 million acres they stole from us and our horses. If they have their way, it will be the end for our American Mustangs.

  7. Give the horses the 20mill acers back!! and return them to there native land and use birth control and evrey one or two years round up some horse to be given homes.

  8. Control of the Wild Mustang population is the BLMs responsbility. Yet is it so necessary to remove them from there home? These horses have lived there for longer than we have. They know the land and they are sturdy animals and most definately do not need much help from us. Would it be right to help a butterfly as it stuggled from its cacoon? If you don’t know, help it will kill it. Animals do not need help from us. If it be natures way, LET IT BE! The BLM is removing these animals from there home, putting them in the publics responibility to pay for the feeding. The animals population numbers MUST be managed. But why so drastic. Consider this economy. Does this have an effect on the BLMs removal of the Mustangs inorder to sell off the land? What other purposes may be involved? Not all the people out there truely care of the horses as much as thoughs that are true admirer of this majestic animal. Respect this animal. They have done SO much for us. Lets do something for them.
    View this for some information on this. There are some videos you may want to see:


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