The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WFRHBA) of 1971 established all “unbranded or unclaimed” equids on U.S. public lands as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.” Today, >72,000 feral horses (Equus ferus caballus) and burros (E . asinus ; WHB) live on western U.S. public rangelands. The number of WHBs exceeds the Bureau of Land Management’s maximum Appropriate Management Level (AML) of 26,715 by a factor of approximately 2.7 and has nearly doubled from 2007–2015. The AML was set to balance WHB numbers with rangeland health and support other uses such as wildlife habitat and livestock grazing. Thus, public land management agencies must manage WHB under the multiple-use context. This becomes more problematic when WHB populations go largely unmanaged and excessive equid grazing negatively impacts rangeland vegetation, native wildlife, and livestock forage. In addition, approximately 46,000 WHBs exist in off -range holding facilities, further straining federal budgets. Contemporary management actions are being constrained by: (1) litigation that has stymied federal government WFRHBA enforcement eff orts, (2) public emotional concerns that lack reconciliation with the current situation, and (3) increasing complexity in the laws and subsequent amendments shaping WHB management policy. Collectively, these factors impede the implementation of concrete solutions to restore AML. Consequently, stakeholders are increasing polarized over how WHBs are or should be managed. While the ecological and animal health and welfare implications of unmanaged WHB populations are somewhat understood, publicly acceptable strategies to maintain healthy populations, healthy and functioning rangelands, and multiple uses that sustain wildlife and local communities remain unresolved.
Scasta, J. Derek; Hennig, Jacob D.; and Beck, Jeffrey L.
"Framing Contemporary U.S. Wild Horse and Burro Management Processes in a Dynamic Ecological, Sociological, and Political Environment,"
Human–Wildlife Interactions: Vol. 12
, Article 6.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/hwi/vol12/iss1/6