Advocating for commonsense, ecologically-sound approaches to managing horses and burros to promote
healthy wildlife and rangelands for future generations
Contact: Terra Rentz, NHBRMC Chair
Phone: 301-897-9770 x309 / E-mail:
Horse and Burro Coalition Statement on NBC’s Wild Horse Stories
Washington, DC (May 15, 2013) – The National Horse & Burro Rangeland Management Coalition issues the following statement in response to two stories released by NBC News today on wild horses:

“Recent stories by NBC News (Today Show: Wild horses: Endangered animals or menace, and Cruel or necessary? and The true cost of wild horse roundups) portray only select facts and a narrow part of the reality surrounding wild horses and burros on the western range.

While regarded by many as icons of the American West, free-roaming horses and burros are in fact non-native species that threaten rangelands and native plant and animal species. But managed at appropriate population levels, wild horses and burros are not a “menace,” even to those with whom the range is shared. Nor is it accurate in any way to call wild horses and burros “endangered.” In fact, the problem is an overpopulation of horses and burros in and beyond many herd management areas. It is inaccurate for these reports to depict only healthy horses or rangelands. While this exists, so do unhealthy horses and degraded range. Finally, considering the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Federal agency tasked with managing most of the wild horses and burros in the West, has gathered tens of thousands of horses over the past decades, it is an unfair portrayal of those gathers to focus on a few instances of potentially inappropriate gather methods. While not perfect, the BLM works hard to maintain humane gather methods.

The BLM faces a daunting task. Current herd sizes, which greatly exceed manageable levels, stand to jeopardize other multiple uses called for by law; they do so by trampling vegetation, hardpacking the soil, and over-grazing. Current overpopulation of horses and burros on the range results in great suffering for the animals, many of which are dying of thirst or starvation. Other multiple uses that depend on healthy rangelands are suffering as well. Despite protection under the law, for example, BLM reports that since horses and burros became protected in 1971, ranching families have seen livestock grazing decline by 30 percent on BLM lands. Meanwhile, the horse population is 42 percent above the scientifically-determined Appropriate Management Level (AML) – which is the population size that BLM can graze without causing ecological damage to rangeland resources. More than 37,000 wild horses currently reside on the range, over 11,000 more than the west-wide AML of 26,500 individuals. Without management, horse and burro herds can double in size every four to five years.

The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 was enacted to protect “wild, free-roaming” horses and burros, as well as guide their management as part of the natural system on BLM and U.S. Forest Service lands in the western United States. The Act requires those agencies to maintain a “thriving natural ecological balance” and protect existing rights on those lands, based on the principle of multiple-use. The Act, as amended, also authorizes the agencies to use or contract for the use of helicopters and motorized vehicles for the purpose of managing horses and burros. This aids BLM to reach AML. When AML is not reached, the animals and other multiple uses, such as wildlife habitat and livestock grazing, are negatively impacted.
American Farm Bureau Federation Masters of Foxhounds Association Mule Deer Foundation
National Association of Conservation Districts National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
National Rifle Association National Wildlife Refuge Association Public Lands Council
Public Lands Foundation Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Safari Club International
Society for Range Management The Wildlife Society

Contact us at or visit us on the web at
Appropriate, scientifically sound management of wild horses and burros on the range is in the interests of all those who care about the health of the animals, the sustainability of the range and the well-being of the rural communities in the west. The NBC stories unfortunately neglect to address these legitimate issues and provide an incomplete picture of the challenges facing policymakers, ranchers, and the conservation community.
For the sake of animal welfare and multiple-use—and in keeping with the Act—the Coalition supports actions that will bring herd sizes in line with AMLs, and emphasizes the following positions: The Coalition appreciates BLM’s efforts to find ways to reduce reproduction rates, increase adoptions and otherwise find solutions to a problem that continues to burden the BLM, taxpayers, and ranchers and create concerns for the welfare of horses and burros and the health of wildlife and the habitats on which they depend. About 70 percent of the total program budget ($74.9 million) is currently being spent on the over 50,000 horses and burros being held in corrals and pastures. These levels are unsustainable. We support innovative strategies such as adjusting sex-ratios, and we encourage more research into effective fertility control treatments. Aside from population suppression, offering trained animals for adoption is important to increase demand for excess horses and burros. We encourage cost-effective initiatives to partner with entities such as universities, prisons and the Mustang Heritage Foundation.

The Coalition applauds the BLM’s implementation of humane handling and holding practices. BLM is now supplementing their already-sound practices with a new Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program. As reported by the American Association of Equine Practitioners in 2011, BLM’s “care, handling and management practices” are “appropriate for this population of horses and generally support the safety, health status and welfare of the animals.” The Coalition believes horses and burros should continue to be cared for in a humane manner both on and off the range; integral to this goal is managing herd populations at scientifically determined AMLs and removing old and injured animals. Management decisions should be science-based and increase the ability of rangelands to support healthy horse and burro herds along with other multiple uses, including sustaining native plant and wildlife communities and livestock grazing.
The rangeland resource should be managed for multiple-use in accordance with the law and the land’s scientifically proven capability to accommodate a variety of uses, including the presence of horses and burros and the biodiversity of the landscape. The consistent application of sound science and economics in relation to animal and rangeland management should be used throughout the horse and burro program.”


The coalition is a diverse partnership of 13 wildlife, conservation and sportsmen organizations, industry partners, and professional natural-resource scientific societies working together to identify proactive and comprehensive solutions to increase effective management of horse and burro populations and mitigate the adverse impacts to healthy native fish, wildlife, and plants and the ecosystems on which they depend. For more information, visit

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It is something when you say

It is something when you say that they are to remove old or injured animals...As you see with round ups many are young and in good health. When they are put in the BLM holding pens, many die or they are sent to slaughter ! The cows and sheep hurt the land more then horses. Cows and sheep pull the grass out by the roots and never really stop eating. Horses and burros nip the tops off of certain grasses and leave much not touched. They are always moving so they never trample or hardpack the soil. That is the problems with cows and sheep. The horses and burros were given certain land rights on a certain part of land acreage. Now the cattle and ship are taking away what belongs to the horses...

Pure BS

Shirley: You say all over the web that  you "love horses."  But you don't love them enough to learn that they're domestic animals not equipped to live in the wild; and that they starve and cause starvation in wildlife.  You have swallowed the feral-horse mafia's BS hook, line, boat and motor.  If you would like to learn the truth about feral horses, please read my piece at:

Love this BULL S-----

Come on get real. The reason why wild horses are being rounded up is because farms want more public land dirt cheap land to raise their cows and sheep on. The more they push to have wild horses removed the more land they can destroy with their livestock. Tell me why when studies are being done they ask that it is not done on the damage done by cattle and sheep.

Got to love the internet because now the BLM, cattle/sheep men and other pro-slaughter groups can not hide their dirty work from the public. Tell me who is it that makes the most out of sending wild horses to slaughter or removing them from public lands?

The fact is that cows and cattle are indigenous to Europe, Asia and Africa, not North America. Cattle were imported to America in the late 1400's, so oh my god they are non-native species that threaten rangelands and native plant and animal species more than horses add in the ones that raise cattle and sheep and you will find greed and cover up in their lust for more money.

Greed is the only reason why the pro-slaughter want a horse slaughter house in the USA even knowing that the meat is toxic and that the American people do not eat horse meat and do not want our tax dollars spent on inspected meat that we don't eat only to fill the pockets of these guys. Not only that but to be told that with all the cuts that the USDA may not be able to inspect the meat we do it and we could face a shortage. I mean these people already lease public land dirt cheat they want all the wild horses rounded up and sent to slaughter to save the tax payers.

Why not send them to Madeline Pickers (sp) she is waiting to take them. What is the BLM afraid that she will show you just how to use safe birth control correctly. Sure is better then selling them to know kill buyers at 10 a heard and then using US tax dollars to ship them to the man.

Sorry but the American people are not stupide and you just can not cover up your BULL SH-- any longer.

Learn about feral horses before pontificating about them

Terra: If you and the rest of the feral-horse mafia knew anything about this issue, you would understand that feral horses are mostly on range that can’t support either themselves OR cattle.  Whenever anyone brings up the need to control the scourge of feral horses, the feral-horse mafia instantly starts talking about cattle.  It’s a non sequitur.  Who said cattle were “native”?  Who said they can’t destroy habitat?  That doesn’t mean that feral horses should be allowed to destroy habitat.  Yes, the American public is “stupid.”  That’s why they had their lawmakers mandate the BLM to undertake an impossible task--manage feral horses so as “to achieve and maintain a thriving natural ecological balance on the public lands.” Feral horses can’t exist anywhere in North America in “natural ecological balance” because they’re aliens without natural predators.

Wild horses

Mr Williams refuses to take in any facts that do not jive with his small,prejudiced viewpoint. He does not respect the law or science or prehistory let alone the wild horses that evolved here on the Great American Desert.

Margo, Please!

The ecological illiteracy of the feral-horse mafia appalls.  Get some education from someone besides the self-proclaimed, non-peer-reviewed “wildlife ecologist” Craig Downer whose name does not appear in the Registry of Certified Wildlife Biologists and Associate Wildlife Biologists.  Because a different species of horse went extinct during the Pleistocene he and the people who believe him claim horses are “native wildlife.”  If that’s true, so are elephants and camels.

Feral/Wild Horses

Mr. Williams, a feral horse is one that was previously domesticated.  A wild horse is one born in the wild.  As any feral horse has long since passed away, ALL of those horses are now WILD horses and have a natural right to be on that land.  Cattle, sheep, goats, and whatever else those red necked ranchers are trying to make money off of, have no right to be out there.  REMOVE THEM. 
For The Horses

Can you be serious?

Yes, feral horses reproduce.  That doesn't make them "wild" or "native" any more than reproducing feral cats and feral hogs are wild and native.

Maybe send them all up to

Maybe send them all up to Yellowstone so those wuff lovers have something to feed their animals. Plus the feral horse folks and the wuff folks seem like peas in a pod, they could all get together and be outraged with each other.

Wuff Folks

At least the "wuff folks" advocate a peg in a native ecosytem.  Wolves do take the odd feral horse.  Unfortunately, not an obligate predator.  Feral horses are out of control.



Wild Horse Annie's Legacy

By Ted Williams

They are wild and free. They are icons of America’s past, symbols of our pioneering spirit. Eyes flashing, nostrils flaring, lips foaming, tails obscured by dust, they tear across the landscape. While they didn’t evolve on this continent, a similar species did; and, anyway, they’ve been here a long time. I am, of course, referring to feral hogs.

Having grown up with horses and burros and having fed our garbage to the neighbor’s hogs, I can attest that hogs are more intelligent than equids. And while feral hogs are horribly destructive of native ecosystems, they are no more so than feral equids. So why have we not embraced feral hogs? Why are we not spending $80 million a year rounding them up, tending them, feeding and watering them in the wild, and vainly encouraging the public to adopt them? Why are there no feral-hog support groups fighting their elimination or even diminution from public lands?

Happily for fish and wildlife, there has yet to be a Wild Hog Annie. But mobilized by a Nevada ranch wife named Velma Johnston (aka “Wild Horse Annie”), ecological illiterates all across America wrote impassioned letters to ecologically illiterate senators and congressmen, demanding that feral equids be protected forever. The upshot was the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, which placed all unrestrained, unclaimed equids under government care and made it a felony to kill, capture, sell, or even annoy one.

It’s hard to blame Mrs. Johnston for objecting to the gory harvests conducted by the “mustangers.” On the other hand, she and her followers converted a resource to a pest and, in the process, subjected feral equids to far greater suffering. Equids, which evolved in grasslands, are not equipped to live in the arid and desert regions to which they’ve been relegated. (Nor is the vegetation they consume equipped to cope with meshing incisors and solid hoofs, adaptations lacking in all our native ungulates.) In a recent New York Times op-ed entitled “Live Free and Die” journalist Judy Blunt describes a typical scene: “A cloud hangs over the Nevada landscape, caused by 500 half-starved horses pounding the high desert to powder, looking for food, stamping any remaining waterholes into dust. The foals are long dead, left behind as they weakened. Cowboys under contract with the BLM set out to gather the horses and move them, but a phone call redirects them to a worse situation in another area.”

Feral-equid support groups, known collectively among wildlifers as “the horse mafia,” chant three mantras. Mantra 1: Cows do far more damage than feral equids. That’s like saying we shouldn’t worry about AIDS because more people die of cancer; and at least cows provide humans with food and income. Mantra 2: Feral equids are native because a similar species evolved in North America, then went extinct 10,000 years ago. That’s like calling elephants native because mastodons lived here 10,000 years ago. Mantra 3: The “mustangs” infesting the West are historical treasures because they’re closely related to animals unleashed by the conquistadores. They are not. They are mongrels--a genetic morass of breeds issuing mostly from recently escaped and discarded livestock.

Erick Campbell--a BLM biologist who dealt with feral equids for 30 years until he retired in 2005--offers this: “We managed everything from workhorses to Shetland ponies. Your daughter’s horse gets old or she stops liking it. So you turn it loose…. [Feral equids] are worse than cows. They do incredible damage. When the grass between the shrubs is gone a cow is out of luck, but a horse or burro will stomp that plant to death to get that one last blade. When cows run out of forage the cowboys move them, but horses and burros are out there all year. BLM exacerbates the problem by hauling water to them.”

Feral equids are proliferating far faster than they’re being adopted. BLM doesn’t begin to have the funds to take care of them, and it squanders the funds it has. “We see places where BLM has established a management goal of 15 or 20 horses when their own science indicates that 100 is the threshold for [genetic] viability,” declares Nevada Department of Wildlife habitat chief Dave Pulliam. “Why aren’t they zeroing out these herds? Horses will stand over a spring and run off other animals. In desert country, seeps and springs are the most important habitats for a whole myriad of species--sagebrush obligate birds, mule deer, bighorns, pronghorns, everything. And they are absolutely beat to mud holes. Riparian habitat has disappeared. Water tables have dropped. Horse use is excessive to the point of rendering this habitat unavailable to wildlife. Our wildlife constituents don’t get as vociferous as the horse lovers.”

“Vociferous,” is an understatement. Confronted with facts, the horse mafia spews ink like a startled squid, mostly in the form of junk science. It confounds the media, bullies the environmental community, terrifies Congress, beats up the BLM, and savages the one group which, to ease the suffering of feral equids, is trying to develop chemical birth control. That group--which appears almost rational in comparison with the horse mafia--is none other than the Humane Society of the United States.

whatsa matta teddie me boy,

whatsa matta teddie me boy, afraid to publish a real rebuttal.

Haven't seen one yet

All the horse mafia can do is spew junk science from fake biologists like Downer.  If you would like to learn about the ecology of feral horses read my piece in audubon at:

Huddle Together Holding Hands

Why not just cut to the chase and say, "I hate horses and want them gone?"

A remarkably stupid comment

This is typical of the drivel that emanates from the ecologically illiterate feral-horse crowd.  I do not “hate horses.”  I grew up with them, competed in horse shows, rode to the hounds in Old Chatham, New York.  What I hate is the damage feral horses do public land and native wildlife.  And, like all wildlife advocates, I do want feral horses gone.  They are a scourge.  And because they’re domestic livestock not equipped to live in the wild, they suffer terribly.  The feral-horse crowd “loves” feral horses but not enough to learn about them.


None of you will like this but...

Why don't we allow regulated hunting of horses like we do deer, elk, antelope, etcetera? I don't understand why we allow the hunting of similar species of wildlife that are actually native, but not horses, besides some stupid sentimental value because they were once domesticated, especially when they have populations way above AML. If all of you contending they are "wild and have a natural right to be on the landscape" are ok with the hunting of aforementioned animals you should be fine with my suggestion, unless you're total hypocrites that is.

You're Wrong

Anon:  You're wrong that "none of us will like this."  I love it!  Excellent point and very well said.  Thanks.

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