The Bureau of Land Management announced July 7 that it will initiate 21 research projects aimed at developing new tools for managing healthy horses and burros on healthy rangelands, including safe and effective ways to slow the population growth rate of the animals and reduce the need to remove animals from the public lands.

With virtually no natural predators, wild horse herds can double in size about every four years. Overpopulation on the range, in addition to prolonged drought conditions, can lead to the deterioration of the land and of the animals’ health.

Over the past 40 years, the BLM has adopted out more than 230,000 horses and burros that were removed from the range to protect animal and land health. Today adoption rates are at record low levels. In the early 2000s the BLM was able to adopt out nearly 8,000 horses each year. Over the last few years annual adoption totals have been closer to 2,500 animals per year. As the BLM works with its partners to place more wild horses into private care, the BLM must care for unadopted animals in its off-range pastures and corrals. The total lifetime cost for caring for an unadopted animal is nearly $50,000.

"Given the cost of caring for horses off the range and the difficulty of finding qualified adopters, it is clear that this challenge must be solved by addressing population growth on the range," said Mike Tupper, BLM deputy assistant director for resources and planning. "The BLM is committed to developing new tools that allow us to manage this program sustainably and for the benefit of the animals and the land."

The BLM will work with leading university and U.S.