GAO releases wild horse study

November 13, 2008 06:00 PM

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a study titled 'Effective Long-Term Options Needed to Manage Unadoptable Wild Horses'.  The Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages about 33,100 wild horses and burros on 199 Herd Management Areas in 10 western states.  BLM is statutorily obligated to set appropriate management levels (AML), maintain current inventory counts, and remove excess animals to prevent overpopulation and rangeland damage.  
The report examined:

  1. BLM's progress in setting and meeting AML;
  2. BLM's management of animals off the range through adoptions, sales, and holding facilities;
  3. BLM's controls to help ensure the humane treatment of animals and
  4. what challenges, if any BLM faces in managing for the long-term sustainability of the program.  The study looked at documents from 26 of the 44 BLM offices that manage the wild hoses and burros. 

In general the report recommends that BLM establish a formal policy for setting AML, develop alternatives for long-term holding facilities, and initiate a discussion with Congress and other stakeholders on how best to comply with the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.  More specifically, the report points to, if not controlled, off-the-range holding costs will continue to overwhelm the program. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association agrees with that point. From 2000 to 2007 the cost for holding animals off the range tripled, from $7 million to $21 million.  In 2008 these costs could account for as much as 74 percent of the program's entire budget.  

Click here to view the full report (pdf).

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