boone and crockett club position statement

Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act

First Adopted December 6, 2014

Situational Overview

The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed unanimously by Congress in 1971, and subsequently amended (“Act”).  It affects wild horses and burros (“WHB”) within designated public lands under the jurisdiction of both the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service (collectively, the “Agencies").  The Act mandates that the Agencies should manage WHB to achieve and maintain “a thriving natural ecological balance” among feral horse populations, wildlife, livestock, and vegetation and to protect the range from deterioration associated with feral horse overpopulation. 

WHB populations have exceeded appropriate management levels for many years and biologists estimate that herd sizes are growing at 15-20% a year.  Wherever WHB numbers have not been kept within the appropriate management levels, the productivity and vitality of the rangeland has suffered, often severely.  Native wildlife species are being deprived of water, food and cover.  Feral horses also suffer when their population levels are too high. 

Efforts by the Agencies to remove excess animals to maintain acceptable herd sizes, primarily through private adoption, have been problematic and the anticipated demand for training and riding wild horses has diminished.  The Agencies have also been hampered by conflicting political mandates and litigation concerning how they should implement the Act.  The process of caring for excess WHB removed from the range in short-term and long-term holding facilities (including private rangeland property) is costing American taxpayers tens of millions of dollars each year, and these costs are expected to rise.

Position

The Boone and Crockett Club supports the intent of the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act and its provisions, but urges the Agencies to implement the Act in a manner that protects wildlife and wildlife habitat.  The current management strategies have failed to benefit native wildlife, feral horses, people, and the rangelands where they co-exist.  This situation does not reflect responsible stewardship of our wildlife or the environment.  In other instances where wildlife populations have exceeded the carrying capacity of the land, the problem has been successfully addressed and the same can be achieved with WHB.

The Club believes management should focus on science-informed strategies and include clear goals and timelines for reducing the total WHB population to levels that will ensure resilient wildlife and plant communities and ample outdoor recreational opportunities on federal lands.  The Club supports the elimination of competing political mandates and litigation that are currently constraining the Agencies’ ability to achieve appropriate management levels in all WHB herd areas. 

The Boone and Crockett Club also maintains that captured and relocated WHB should not be held and cared for indefinitely in holding facilities because of the enormous expense.  Redirecting wildlife conservation and management funds for the care of one species, while forsaking all others and the environment, is not in keeping with the proven track record of conservation successes that is the hallmark of our Agencies. 

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