From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published July 14, 2010 07:27 PM

Horses and Burros

One does not think often about vast herds of horses or burros. However, there are a few herds here and there and they need to be protected and maintained. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced today that it has issued a new policy handbook relating to the management of wild horses and burros roaming public lands under the BLM's jurisdiction. Among other things, the handbook would ensure that the factors considered in determining appropriate herd population levels are consistent across all of the Bureau's 179 herd management areas in 10 Western states.

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The BLM estimates that more than 38,000 wild horses and burros are roaming on BLM-managed range lands in 10 Western states. Wild horse herd sizes can double about every four years. As a result, the agency must remove thousands of animals from the range each year to control population. New research on and stepped-up application of fertility-control measures will help bring herd sizes down to appropriate management levels. Otherwise herds may expand to unsustainable numbers and then collapse due to starvation (boom and bust cycles).

In 1971, wild horses and burros were found roaming across 51.3 million acres, of which 40.3 million acres were under the BLM's jurisdiction. Today the BLM manages wild horses and burros in subsets of these areas that comprise 31.9 million acres, of which 26.6 million acres are under BLM management. Of the 19.4 million acres not managed for wild horse and burro use today:

* 5.7 million acres were controlled by landowners who were unwilling to make their land available for wild horse and burro use.

* Of the other 13.7 million acres these were intermingled with other use areas or were areas with uncertain water supplies not controlled by BLM.

"This new handbook is another step in the BLM's ongoing effort to improve its management of the nation's wild horses and burros," said BLM Director Bob Abbey. "Going forward, the new handbook will ensure that the BLM sets the appropriate management level for different herds in a consistent manner."

Abbey also noted that the BLM is working to put its Wild Horse and Burro Program on a sustainable track, and he urged the public to visit the Bureau’s national Home Page (www.blm.gov) to provide comments on a Strategy Development Document aimed at setting the program in a new direction.

The new wild horse and burro handbook states that in-depth evaluations of a herd-specific appropriate management level (AML) should be done when review of resource monitoring and population inventory data indicates that the existing AML for that herd may no longer reflect conditions on the range. The handbook says the following factors should be considered when evaluating or adjusting AML:

- Changes in environmental conditions, drought, wildfires, noxious weed infestations, and available forage and water.

- The presence of any newly listed threatened, endangered, or sensitive species.

Generally BLM is trying to control wild horse and burros population in a non-destructive and benevolent manner using natural limitations and even fertility control to limit population growth to a sustainable level based on what the land can provide.

The new handbook also makes clear that unless an emergency situation exists, it is the BLM’s policy to prohibit the use of helicopters to assist in the capture of wild horses the six weeks before and the six weeks after the peak foaling period.

To access the new handbook, please go to: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/regulations/Instruction_Memos_and_Bulletins/blm_handbooks.html

For further information: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/newsroom/2010/july/NR_07_14_2010.html

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