High Country News
On Monday, the Bureau of Land Management began its helicopter-assisted roundup of 3,500 wild horses and burros from public lands. Horses gathered from the range are corralled temporarily around the West and then shipped to pastures in the Midwest, where they’re either adopted or spend the rest of their lives chomping on grass at the taxpayer’s expense.
The costs of the BLM’s wild horse and burro program have ballooned to $75.8 million, up from around $16 million in 1989. In that same timeframe, the number of wild horses in long-term holding pastures has increased from just 1,600 to over 45,000 this summer, stretching the agency to near capacity. At the same time, adoption rates of wild horses have dropped sharply since the program started in 1995.
What that means is there are now more wild horses in captivity than on the open range, and the BLM is running out of places to put them.
The agency could, of course, kill the horses. As of 2004, when Congress passed the Burns amendment to the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the BLM is allowed to sell old or unadoptable horses for $10 a head to anyone—including to slaughterhouses or to kill buyers. But two years after that amendment, Congress withdrew funding for USDA inspections of horses destined for food, effectively ending domestic horse slaughtering. Funding was reinstated last November after a Government Accountability Office report found the domestic slaughter ban had unintentionally harmed horses. Horses were now traveling further to be slaughtered, to places like Canada and Mexico where they are not protected by the USDA’s humane slaughter rules.
If you’d like to discuss equine law, contact equine law attorney Adam Trenk, firstname.lastname@example.org