How The New Wild Horse Plan Could Affect Utah

Oct 8, 2019

Congress is getting closer to approving an updated plan for managing the increasing number of wild horses in the United States. The proposed bill increases the budget for the Bureau of Land Management by $50 million.

As the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act states,  wild horses and burros are “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the west” and an important part of American cultural heritage. 

Terry Messmer is a Utah State University wildlife specialist studying wild horses.  

“Utah State University in corporation with other partners have held several summits where we brought together interested state holders representing over a hundred different organizations to talk about ways to manage the wild horse population in humane and efficient matters. One of the things promotes is the document of Path Forward…”

The Path Forward Initiative is a proposed plan by a consortium of groups for the management of wild horses and burros currently on the senate floor.

“Basically, there was a proposal to remove a significant number of horses in the next two/three years to reduce the on range population to a level where we can start exploring deeper areas, such as fertility control,”said Messmer

The four tiers of the Path Forward Initiative will be, first, gathering and removing wild horses in densely populated Herd Management Areas; second, the use of fertility control; third, relocating horses to humane pasture facilities; and fourth, adoption programs.

The proposed initiative  does not involve any lethal methods including euthanasia or selling horses to slaughter to manage the population.  

“One of the tools the BLM still retains as part of the original act are gathers. This money that’s being proposed would go to additional gathers and additional work focusing on things such as fertility control,” said Messmer.

As of March 2019, Utah had around 5,397 wild horses and burros on range.