President Donald Trump’s budget proposal seeks to reduce spending and manage overcrowding of wild horse populations.
Trump’s proposed budget alters The Wild Free-Roaming Horses And Burros Act Of 1971 to allow the “unrestricted sale” of horses without the guarantee they not be sold for slaughter, a change the administration claims would save $10 million.
Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, opposes wild horse euthanasia and Trump’s budget proposal.
“The BLM wants to slaughter thousands of iconic wild horses…[to] cover up its gross mismanagement and incompetence in managing the federal wild horse and burro program,” Roy said in a press release Thursday.
Overcrowding of wild horses on public lands has been a growing issue since Congress named free-roaming mustangs “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West,” protecting them from slaughter, except in cases when one is old, sick, or crippled.
Federal land can support 27,000 wild horses and burros without excessive harm to the environment, livestock, or other wildlife, according to a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) 2016 overview of the Wild Horse and Burro Program. 67,000 wild horses and burros ran on federal land in 2016, 268 percent more than when Congress passed The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act in 1971.
Overcrowding of wild horses has caused severe problems on federal lands in the West. The unsustainable numbers in horse herds has resulted in over-competition of food and water, causing animals to starve. The land itself has been ravaged by the overwhelming amounts of traffic, to the detriment of wildlife.
The 1971 act states the secretary of the interior must, “manage wild free-roaming horses and burros in a manner that is designed to achieve and maintain a thriving natural ecological balance on the public lands.”
The BLM is tasked with culling horses from unsustainable herds and keeping the excess housed in corrals or with private contractors. Keeping one horse over its lifetime costs the BLM $48,000.
The agency has stopped housing extra horses and only captures those that will be adopted because of the high cost. Adoptions have fallen, however, from 9,700 in 1995 to 2,600 in 2015.
The BLM admits that if tools other than euthanasia were available to manage horse populations, bringing herds back to manageable levels would take “decades.”
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