BLM Announces Reforms to Wild Horse and Burro Program


MustangsFew equine issues are more contentious that the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) wild horse and burro program. Animal welfare groups, including the ASPCA and Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) have criticized the program as inhumane. Citizen-interest groups such as The Cloud Foundation and Saving America’s Mustangs exist largely to speak out against the round-ups, which they consider cruel. Even members of the U.S. Congress have drawn attention to the program’s inefficiency.

BLM director Bob Abbey is aware of the problems with the status quo, and on February 24th, the Bureau released plans to make significant changes to the program with help from the National Academy of Sciences and HSUS.

The key points of the plan, as stated by the BLM, are as follows:

NAS study –The BLM has commissioned the National Academy of Sciences to review previous wild horse management studies…Specifically the study will look at the methods for population modeling, the annual rates of population growth, fertility control methods, evaluation of carrying capacity of various lands to support wild horse herds, genetic diversity in wild horse herds, and predator impact on wild horse population growth.

Issue Procedures to Facilitate Long-term Care by Partners – The BLM will release…specific procedures by which members of the public can apply to enter into partnerships with the federal government for long-term care of wild horses that are removed from the public rangeland.

Increase Science-Based Fertility Control – The BLM proposes to significantly increase the number of mares treated with fertility control – from 500 in 2009 to a target of 2,000 in each of the next 2 years during the NAS study, pending sufficient budget allocations. Director Abbey said the BLM’s ultimate goal is to make various fertility control measures the primary means to maintain healthy population levels. He said the BLM intends to work closely with the Humane Society of the United States to implement and monitor this expanded effort.

Reduce Removals – The BLM intends to reduce the annual number of wild horses removed for at least the next 2 years from 10,000 to 7,600 – a level that would essentially maintain the current number of wild horses and burros on the range.

In addition, Director Abbey said the BLM will continue to strengthen areas on which it has already started. These include:

Enhance Humane Animal Care and Handling Practices. Director Abbey said the agency will conduct thorough reviews and add appropriate controls to the agency’s contracts and policies to strengthen humane animal care and handling practices. This will apply to both gathering contracts and short-and long-term holding facility contracts.

Promote Volunteerism in the Management of Wild Horses. The proposal calls for increased engagement of the public by enhancing public outreach, recruiting local volunteers to assist in monitoring the health of the rangelands where animals roam, and encourages partnerships to increase herd-related ecotourism.

Improve Transparency and Openness. Director Abbey also said it is important to reaffirm throughout the agency the BLM’s fundamental commitment to transparency in all facets of the wild horse and burro program. This includes increasing public viewing opportunities during gathers and at short-term corrals and long–term care facilities to the highest extent possible without compromising the safety of staff, members of the public, or the animals. The BLM is also committed to the accurate, prompt, and public release of information related to the program.

The BLM has been soliciting feedback on the program from the public over the past several months, and these changes come about in large part due to the response they received. They will continue to accept public comment on the revised program through March 30. For the full text of the planned reforms and information on how to submit feedback, visit


  1. It all sounds good but I am not going to hold my breath. Is this a tactic to get another 12 million and then forget the ‘intentions’? I curtainly hope not!!!

  2. This is just more of the same BS the BLM has been excreting forever, just wrapped up a little fancier. They have no intentions of addressing the issues advocates have been imploring them to do for many years. The only way we can get through to them is by cutting their budget. Less money allocated means no more money to continue their abusive round ups. Hit em where it hurts the most, in the wallet. Maybe…..just maybe then they will then listen and HEAR the voices of protest. I have contacted my Representative and my Senators and asked them to push for budget cuts that will effectively defund the round ups. Win-win situation, saves taxpayer dollars and makes them stop long enough that some much needed changes can be made.

  3. Why are you pandering to the HSUS? They collect hundreds of millions of dollars a year from unsuspecting donors and less than .5% of those monies collected is spent on actual animal care. Please investigate!


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