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Study finds BLM’s wild horse management practices are flawed


A study by the National Research Council finds that the BLM’s management practices for wild horses are economically unsustainable and lack scientific justification.

The BLM removes thousands of horses from public lands each year, to maintain a certain population size. But Guy Palmer, chairman of the committee that wrote the report, says the practice is expensive – and fundamentally flawed.

“Yes, it does protect the rangeland, which is part of the BLM’s mandate,” Palmer said. “It helps protect the health of the horses by making sure that forage and water are not limited. But in doing so, it also ensures that the problem of continued population growth on the range continues.”

Palmer says that’s because removing horses makes the remaining horses breed faster. He says a better solution is birth control. The BLM has tried out a contraceptive vaccine on small populations of wild horses in Wyoming and elsewhere, and Palmer says the drug should be used more widely.

“The goal would be to reduce the need to take horses off the range, ideally to the point where any horses taken off would be equivalent to the numbers that would be desired for adoption,” he said.

The BLM says it would like to rely more on fertility control but has no immediate plans to do so, because rounding up all the wild horses each year to administer birth control would be too difficult.

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