Mustangs in Crisis
5. Sale Without Stipulation. If the BLM sold the excess horses without stipulation, there would be opportunity for horse sanctuaries and concerned individuals to obtain ownership. If the sanctuaries and individuals didn’t get the horses, they would likely be sold to a kill buyer who would arrange for their transport to a slaughterhouse in Mexico or Canada. Currently, there are no horse slaughter plants in operation in the United States. Sale without stipulation is the worst case scenario for many Wild Horse Activists because transportation to slaughterhouses can take days and the slaughter processes are not controlled by a U.S. authorities.
6. Expanding Grazing Areas. According to a 2013 BLM forage allocation report, livestock and wild horse usage is nationally about one-to-one on the 31.2 million acres designated for wild horses and burros (1.1 million animal units per month, or AUMs, allocated to public land ranchers, versus 900,000 for wild horses and burros). Grazing practices for each group are quite different. The BLM permits livestock to graze at a regulated density in a certain area for a designated amount of time, while horses graze continually throughout the year and do not follow any type of structured pasture rotation. While it’s possible to allocate additional forage from livestock to horses in some areas, many livestock permits in HMAs have already been drastically reduced or eliminated, and many of those areas no longer offer abundant forage.
7. Culling. In Australia there are approximately 1 million brumbies, the country’s term for free-roaming horses. The Australian government hires marksmen to cull the herd. Similar practices are done in the United States for bison and elk. Although many groups consider culling to be the most humane method of population control, the BLM is not considering lethal culls as a management option.
8. Natural Regulation. Natural regulation is letting nature take its course. Unfortunately, that course has been modified dramatically as humans have built highways, erected fences, constructed dams, introduced invasive plants and animals and forever changed the ecology of the landscape. Allowing natural regulation to occur is a choice to enter wild horses into a boom and bust cycle. It can result in horses starving to death when resources become limited. Ecologists agree that not only would horses suffer, but wildlife, vegetation and everyone who depends on those landscapes would be affected negatively. Unfortunately, this is the direction the wild horse and burro program is headed. Although some of the above management options are in effect to some extent, experts agree that nothing has yet curbed the exponential growth of the wild horse population. Until the trend is reversed, two of the greatest treasures of the American West—wild horses and the public lands they roam—face an appalling future.