Wild Horse Education

National Academy of Sciences (time for a new report)

Congress has been continually adding additional funding to accelerate the “BLM 2020 plan.” Removals are at historically high rates causing a race to approve more holding facilities, many of them off-limits to public view. A lack of oversight of the program is causing herds to be decimated without any actual management planning (HMAPs) as their ranges are being given away to rapidly expanding water dependent industry (mining, livestock) and, hypocritically, emergency roundups due to drought continue to increase.

The only bar Congress has set (in exchange for the continued commitment to increase the amount of taxpayer dollars for the program) is a quarterly self-evaluation report from the agency. To receive the initial bump for the 2020 plan BLM was required to submit a programmatic plan and report. Nearly a year late, the agency submitted a 33-page document that did not even include a table of contents.

Take Action: Click HERE to send the letter to your representatives.

BLM Wild Horse program must commission a National Academy of Sciences review 
  1. Congress must immediately require BLM to commission a study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) of the Wild Horse and Burro program.
  2. The agency must be prohibited from restricting the information the NAS can utilize in making determinations.
  3. The NAS must not be restricted from analyzing any component, program or sub-program.
  4. Congress must set a time limit of no more than twelve (12) months for the agency to submit a programmatic planning document to address the review.
Removals have accelerated to unprecedented numbers as holding facilities overflow increasing the long-term financial responsibility to the taxpayer.
An independent, science-based review is overdue.
Allowing the agency to self-evaluate, as the only caveat prior to releasing additional funding, is irresponsible. 
A new review is needed prior to any continued increase over 2019 spending.

Background in support of the request for an immediate review of the BLM Wild Horse and Burro program by the National Academy of Sciences. 

The first report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) was commissioned and delivered in 1980.  Subsequent reports were commissioned in 1982, and 2013. The 1991 report was compiled by the National Research Council. Each report was limited in scope by the agency: 1980 (an overview and basic recommendations), 1982 (what was needed data, science, surveys, etc.), 1991 (population growth suppression), 2013 (13 points directed by the agency.) It is interesting to look at the reports in historic context relevant to both the evolution of the reports themselves and the changes in technology and scientific understanding.

Note: After the 2013 report roundups dropped to the lowest numbers in history a year later. Many states began to mandate that management planning (HMAP) was to begin. All of that changed at the end of 2016 when corporate lobby groups banded together under Chris Stewart (R-UT) and that plan (Path Forward) was incorporated into the “BLM 2020” plan. The HMAPs never took form. The 2023 Appropriations debate is set to fund the 3rd leg of that plan. 

You can download the reports:

1980: Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros: Current Knowledge and Recommended Research. (1980)

1982: Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros: Final Report (1982)

1991: Wild Horse Populations: Field Studies in Genetics and Fertility: Report to the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of the Interior (1991)

2013: Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: A Way Forward

The most recent NAS review (2013: A Way Forward) reiterated many of the initial statements made in 1982 finding multiple failures even in basic data collection processes and coherent analysis. In other words, the deficits in science-based decision making have existed for decades without significant improvement.

The law requires:

The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (PUBLIC LAW 92-195), mandates in section §1333. Powers and duties of Secretary, subpart (a) He shall consider the recommendations of qualified scientists in the field of biology and ecology, some of whom shall be independent of both Federal and State agencies and may include members of the Advisory Board established in section 1337 of this Act and support; (b)(3) For the purpose of furthering knowledge of wild horse and burro population dynamics and their interrelationship with wildlife, forage and water resources, and assisting him in making his determination as to what constitutes excess animals, the Secretary shall contract for a research study of such animals with such individuals independent of Federal and State government as may be recommended by the National Academy of Sciences for having scientific expertise and special knowledge of wild horse and burro protection, wildlife management and animal husbandry as related to rangeland management. The terms and outline of such research study shall be determined by a research design panel to be appointed by the President of the National Academy of Sciences.

Presidential Memorandum:

In January of 2021, President Biden launched a memorandum to help restore trust in government decision making: “It is the policy of my Administration to make evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data.  Scientific and technological information, data, and evidence are central to the development and iterative improvement of sound policies, and to the delivery of equitable programs, across every area of government.”

This month the President has announced “Year of Evidence for Action” at its first-ever White House Summit on Evidence for Action. (You can see the White House Release “Fact Sheet” HERE)

The question: If the administration is committed to science based agency decision making, why are they running the “2020 plan” without any science based review?

The 2020 plan was created by big lobby groups through former Deputy Director Brian Steed and formalized by former Deputy Director William Perry-Pendley (the tenure of both of these men carried questionable authorities of the Director of BLM). Why is more funding going to push roundups to the highest rates in history without any review?

If the administration is committed to science-based decision making, the public deserves a scientific review of that accelerated and very expensive plan. 

Take Action: Click HERE to send the letter to your representatives.


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