"Success spoils a US program that saves thousands of wild horses" by Dave Philipps New York Times October 14, 2016
OSAGE COUNTY, Okla. — The Bureau of Land Management rents 60 private ranches, corrals, and feedlots where it stores the 46,000 wild horses that it has removed from the West’s public lands. The cost is $49 million a year, and some say that is putting the whole program at risk.
The expense eats up 66 percent of the federal budget for managing wild horses, and it is expected to total more than $1 billion over the life of the herds.
The bureau has struggled to limit wild horse populations since Congress passed a law in 1971 protecting the wild horses and burros that roam patches of public land in 10 Western states, and whose numbers increase naturally every year. The agency says the land can support only about 27,000 animals, but these days, there are about 77,000.
Repeated government audits going back 26 years have warned the bureau to find alternatives to storing horses, but it never has.
For decades, the bureau used helicopter roundups to thin herds, but it can now barely afford that because it spends so much on storing horses.
The bureau tried fertility control drugs — administered through an annual shot delivered by dart gun — that would reduce the need for roundups. Now money for that has been spent on storing horses, too.
“The entire budget is tied up in feeding horses; we need to do something drastic, now,” said Ben Masters, a filmmaker who adopted seven wild horses and who sits on the program’s nine-member advisory board.
The agency says there are far too many wild horses roaming the West, and it must limit them to stave off damage to fragile ecosystems. But it never found a strategy that does not put more horses on storage ranches.
Some critics say management should include other options, such as fertility control drugs for horses in the wild. Others say policies that eliminated predators like wolves, which once helped keep the horse population in check, need to be reconsidered. Others say it is time to kill horses to free up resources, but animal-rights groups oppose any killing of horses.
That seems to be the U.S. governments answer to just about everything these days.
You sure about that hamburger?
I'm done horsing around.