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BLM toils with expensive mustang management program

Although the Inspector General’s Office has stated in a report that rounding up wild horses is necessary to control overpopulation, the Bureau of Land Management, the agency responsible for the equines, said the current and costly program is not sustainable.

According to the December 2010 report from the Inspector General, as of October 2010, the bureau was keeping approximately 26,400 horses in longterm holding facilities and 11,400 in short term holding.

Costs to manage the animals ranging on public lands and in the holding facilities has grown from $36.7 million in 2004 to $66.1 million last year.

“It’s not sustainable,” said Jenny Lesieutre, Bureau of Land Management wild horse and burro program manager in Cheyenne.

According to the Inspector General’s report, the bureau agrees that its current course is not sustainable for the horses, the environment or the taxpayer.

The Inspector’s report said they did not find any mistreatment of wild horses or burros by the bureau or contractors employed to capture the animals.

Roundups — or gathers as the bureau terms them — are essential to control the mustang population and there is little natural predation to curb numbers, said the Inspector’s report.

Those gathers may be necessary to decrease the equine population, but the bureau is stuck with surplus stock when fewer buyers in tough economic times choose to adopt.

In 1996, 1,311 mustangs from across the West were removed from their respective horse management areas or HMAs. Of that number, 861 were adopted. In 2005, 2,000 mustangs were removed with 421 being adopted. Last year, 1,238 were removed and 134 were adopted, Lesieutre said.

In October of 2009, the bureau gathered 192 mustangs in the McCullough Peaks horse management area. Ninety-four were transferred to temporary holding for future adoption, and the rest, returned to their range.

In September of 2009, 146 mustangs were gathered in the Pryor Mountain horse management area. Fifty-seven were slated for adoption and the rest released.

There are 16 horse management areas in Wyoming. Wyoming’s wild horse count is second only to Nevada with approximately 16,642 horses and 819 burros.

Wyoming has no burros, but Lesieutre’s estimate was 3,985 mustangs.

Wyoming’s AML — appropriate management level — is 2,490 to 3,725. An AML specifies how many horses a particular range can support while accommodating different uses like other wildlife, domestic stock, recreation or natural resource development.

January’s Wyoming wild horse estimate is 3,958, Lesieutre said.

Fertility control to curb overpopulation, gathers and adoptions are tools, not magic bullets.

“I don’t think there is a golden arrow on anything,” Lesieutre said.

Mares can be administered the birth control drug porcine zona pellucida (PZP) during gathers, but PZP is not nearly as effective when delivered remotely by darting, Lesieutre said.

In a small horse management areas, remote delivery can be effective to a degree, but its not so practical in a 2 million acre or more area, Lesieutre said.

Nevada has more than 15 million acres of horse management are range and Wyoming, nearly 5 million.

The McCullough Peaks horse management area (HMA) is more than 110,000 acres with an AML of 100 mustangs. Fifteen Mile HMA, northwest of Worland, is more than 81,000 acres with an AML of 70 to 160 horses. Salt Wells HMA, southwest of Rock Springs, is nearly 1.2 million acres with an AML of 251 to 365 horses, according to a bureau HMA fact sheet.

The bureau needs to adjust its AML, “but of course that’s a very hot subject right now,” Lesieutre said.

The bureau will continue to conduct gathers and adoption proceedings, Lesieutre said.

Without slowing wild horse population growth, the program is not sustainable, Lesieutre said.

The bureau is crafting a five-year strategy to address its horse management program. Congress must approve the plan, Lesieutre said.

“It should be out soon,” Lesieutre said.

“We’re going out to the public for feasible solutions,” Lesieutre said. “We need everybody to give their input and not just one interest group.”

“None of us are in the program because we hate horses,” Lesieutre said, “we’re in the program because we love horses.”

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7 comments

  • posted by Renee Hanson

    January 16, 2011 12:02 pm

    I find it hard to believe the bureau when they say they are removing mustangs because they are running out of grass. I have witnessed cattle being released on the mustang range soon after the mustangs have been removed.
    I also believe there are cheaper and more humane methods to round up the mustangs. You could put up large corrals and feed/salt the mustages in the corrals. They would soon get used to the person doing the feeding and when it came time to round them up you could simply close the gate. I have raised horses here in Wyoming for years and have had mule deer come in when calling in the horses. Those deer would not care if they and the horses were fed in a corral or not. It is too expensive to use the methods in use now.
    And another thing, what about exploiting the mustangs they way they did with Cloud? I know for certain that the tourists would love to know when and where to look for the herds along the highway. If the bureau could include a blog or update on the mustangs, (I'm not saying there would have to be a movie made)the mustangs would be in greater demand and people would be more interested in buying them.
    Good luck with this hard issue, I hope and pray that you can come up with a salution that serves all of us and not just a few.

  • posted by LynIl

    January 14, 2011 5:29 pm

    It just makes me sick to see how our Great American Wild Horse are being treated by the US department that is entrusted with their protection. Again it is all about money. They round up the wild horses and let non-native cattle graze on the lands that were given to the protection of the wild horses and burros and yet no one sees a problem with that? Shame shame! I bet the Bald Eagle will be next icon to go since the government doesn't want us to beleive in the Icons of the past that represented our FREEDOM.

  • posted by MJWilson

    January 14, 2011 9:14 am

    We've all sent our input and continue to do so, although it falls on "dead ears", many good idea's have been presented. Madeleine Pickens was told that she could start moving the long term horses onto her sanctuary but the BLM lied again and now won't give them to her. We have people that have tried to adopt horses and have been turned away. BLM has their plan and it's not in the horses best interest. Lesieutre's response of "we love horses" makes me want to barf. Anyone that watches the youtube video's of BLM roundups, or go to the Cloud Foundation, or the SaveAmericanMustangs, Madeleine Pickens website for some real truth on this matter. You'll how the BLM wastes your tax money instead of leaving the horses on our land, and how the BLM thugs actually, "hate our wild horses and burro's" and wish them All dead and gone, and how they treat the public who try and record their doings, denying us our constitutionl rights to observe and document. They say it's too dangerous while they allow they grandkids to play next to the traps. There are only 16,000 wild horses left on our lands now, and millions of cattle and sheep, so who's doing the damage to the land. They chew cud, they don't re-seed like horses and burro's do, they're good for our land not harmful like cud chewers. Only 3% of all the beef is sold here in the US, all the other beef on our lands that our tax money pays these welfare ranchers goes over-seas. I'm sick of supporting foreigners and the US ranchers. I'm a vegan and I have no use for them. I'm also a horse owner and support them myself not sucking off the American tax payers.

  • posted by Christine A. Jubic

    January 14, 2011 12:21 am

    LIARS! The BLM has NEVER "liked" the wild horses and burros. Look back to when the 1971 Act to protect them was passed. The BLM was appalled! Leo Heil left a fortune to the state of Nevada to protect their wild horses, and the politicians used that money to influence Washington so that they "could write the book" on the Federal Wild Horse & Burro Management Plan. Of course, the plan was to manage them to extinction and that is what is happening here and now. There are approx. 200 privately owned cattle to ONE wild horse or burro,...so who is truely overgrazing the land? As for the "no preditors" excuse, that is because the BLM keeps killing them off,..again as a favor to the ranchers. If you wanna talk about waste of taxpayer money, talk about the Welfare Ranching (Public Lands Grazing) Program which costs taxpayers nearly a BILLION dollars annually to administer....eventhough these ranchers (Del Web, Hilton Hotel, Frito-Lay, etc.) produce less than 2% of our nations beef...its not about cows but keeping their grazing permits so they can lease them out (for profit) to someone else.
    There is PLENTY of room for the wild ones on our public lands if the BLM would get the cows off and just let the wild equines be. But of course, that will never happen. There is no $$$ in it for the BLM that way.

  • posted by Lynn

    January 13, 2011 10:17 pm

    It's (this article) a joke...It's for the private interests of Cattle Ranchers to graze their privately owned cattle on publicly owned land. The horses don't need human help or intervention.They need to be left alone. Anything else the BLM tells you, is just a lie.

  • posted by Craig Downer

    January 13, 2011 4:48 pm

    What atrociously low Appropriate Management Levels for the wild horses and burros. This is entirely contrary to the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act that states clearly that these animals enhance the diversity of life in our nation and are to be treated as the principal though not exclusive presences within their legally declared herd areas (BLM) and territories (USFS). All the opposite of this latter is happening at present. This must be changed, before they are only a Heavenly memory. Livestock grazing and other monopolizers on the public lands must be cut back in order to accomodate fairer numbers.

  • posted by MJNYC

    January 13, 2011 10:33 am

    This is such a pile of you know what!

    These gathers have been unnecessary and probably illegal, but yet they continued to do roundups in horrible heat and with helicopters. Foals hooves fell off in one of the gathers because they ran the horses so long over rocky terrain. And they say the LOVE horses?

    So many have tried to stop these roundups but the BLM continued and continued their evil. Now they say they can't afford it? This is absurd.

    Don't they budget? Don't they manage their office and say, "well, we are taking in x amount of horses and that's going to cost us x amount of dollars". This is management 101, but our government doesn't know to do this?

    What would they propose now? Send all the horses they callously removed from their homes and slaughter them?

    All those involved in these gathers should be fired, starting with Salazar.

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