Wild horses

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has proposed offering up to $1,000 to anyone willing to adopt a Mustang currently residing the agency’s holding corrals in an attempt to boost adoptions, but wild horse advocates are slamming the idea as costly and potentially dangerous to the horses.

The 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act protects wild horses and burros and places them under BLM jurisdiction. Since the legislation’s passing, the agency’s methods and costs for managing the herds have become controversial among ranchers who graze livestock on public lands and wild horse welfare advocates alike.

In its April 26 report to Congress, the BLM proposed instituting a program that would offer anyone who adopts a wild horse or burro an incentive of up to $1,000, paid at the point of adoption.

“If the incentive proves to increase adoptions beyond the planned 5,000, the BLM could increase removals to match adoption/sale totals,” the report said. “While this incentive would increase costs in the initial years, it will quickly pay for itself by lowering off-range holding expenditures.”

However, wild horse advocates believe the proposal will put the equids at risk.

“Giving away $1,000 to Mustang adopters will attract people who may have a financial incentive to adopt the horse but lack the skills, resources, and commitment to care for them,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign. She said she believes this proposal could result in more wild horses and burros winding up in foreign horse processing plants.

Meanwhile, horse advocate Jerry Finch, founder of Habitat for Horses, in Hitchcock, Texas, believes there is another cost-effective way to manage the animals.

“Here’s a clue to solving the problem: Leave the wild horses alone, living on land where they cost nothing,” he said. “Let the ranchers leasing BLM land pay the same grazing rights costs as the rest of ranchers in the United States.”

The BLM’s report stated that 86,000 animals resided on public lands at the end of 2017. The agency is currently caring for 46,000 unadopted and unsold animals residing in long- and short-term corrals and contracted private pastures.

“The BLM will need the help of all stakeholders—Congress, livestock operators, state and local governments, and public interest organizations—to solve the wild horse and burro overpopulation challenge,” the agency’s report said. “We request that Congress advise on which of the tools it deems most suitable for addressing this urgent challenge.”