Wild Horse Education

Running Up The Escalator (BLM releases population estimates)

Yesterday the BLM released their 2022 population estimates of wild horses and burros on BLM designated public lands. The BLM estimated approximately 64,604 wild horses and 17,780 wild burros as of March 1, 2022.

The agency continues to claim a numbers game that this level of animals is 3 times the “appropriate” number on all of BLM land. The agency continues to push toward a politically-set “27,000” as a claim of what the land can sustain. The agency has used the “27,000” number since the 1971 Act passed and the first survey done. Even though BLM has changed inventory methods multiple times, the agency still compares that number to the number set in the 70s. In fact, the massive population explosion “by-the-numbers” back in 2014/15 came at the exact time the agency changed how they count horses and how they pad the number through terrain modeling.

“If the same survey was done in the 70s it could result in the exact number represented by the agency today. This is a political numbers game. It does not represent a scientific evaluation of what the land can sustain. The National Academy of Sciences has been chiding BLM for over 4 decades about this exact issue.” Laura Leigh, Wild Horse Education founder

“It is astounding that the agency continues the claim that ‘chronic overpopulation and ongoing drought causes a scarcity of food and water on the range’ as they rapidly continue to fragment existing wild horse habitat approving fencing project after project for livestock and accelerate mining expansion.” said Leigh, “If the drought is demonstrating a fragile landscape, why the race to expand mining in the most arid states in the nation? I know of not a single wild horse herd out there that, in a year (or even ten years), uses the water a single mine can consume in a day.”

BLM continues the charade that massive removals are needed to ‘save horses from themselves’ when absolutely no effort has been made to stop habitat fragmentation by industry.

“Not only do massive removals increase population growth levels making any removals akin to running up an escalator,” Leigh continued, “None of this is based in any actual management planning for wild horses. When advocates say horses are removed to suit industry it is not rhetoric; the paperwork bears the statement.”

The agency claims that the number of wild horses represents an overpopulation. The claim of overpopulation is based on “Gather Environmental Assessments (EA)” that carry over a number from a planning document called a Land Use Plan (LUP). The LUP incorporates the planning documents for mining and livestock and goals outlined in those documents. The LUP does not include any Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) that outlines the goals, how population levels are set, critical habitat, etc. In other words, horses are removed to suit planning for profit driven interests.

The HMAP is the only planning document actually called for under law, the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR). The HMAP is omitted discounting any pretense of any actual management. Omitting the HMAP also omits any opportunity wild horse advocates have to address population numbers, boundaries, etc. set by backdoor deals and politics.

BLM is desperately pushing the 2020 plan agreed to by corporate interests (Path Forward). The 2023 fiscal year budget will push the plan to near completion. The remainder of the 2022 budget will see over 11,000 targeted for capture. The 2023 budget is set to push an additional 25,000 onto the roundup schedule.

This push to complete the 2020 plan is in fill swing without any attempt to reform a broken program and create actual management planning.

“By the time BLM pushes through FY 2023 the 2020 will have completed the promise to corporate interests and ignored the need to responsibly reform the program.” Leigh said. “If the public ever wants to see a herd of 500 or more wild horses in any lifetime to come, this insanity of basing management on unsound and politically driven numbers games needs to stop now.”

We need BLM to craft open HMAPs, where the public can actually have input on management (goals, numbers, habitat preservation) immediately and halt removals now.

Pigeon fever in holding, 2021

The agency claims they “significantly increased the number of animals placed into private care, finding homes for more than 26,500 animals in support of its efforts to reduce overpopulation on the range.”

Record numbers of mustangs are landing in kill-pens through the lack of oversight in the BLM Adoption Incentive Program (paying people to adopt) and the ongoing sale program.

The stockpiling of pens, without reform, will lead to calls to kill horses in holding rather than foot the costs to house them in the near future.


You can take action in the FY budget debate HERE.


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Categories: Wild Horse Education