Bill would Put Wild Horses under State Jurisdiction

Bill would Put Wild Horses under State Jurisdiction

The BLM estimates that there are 49,209 wild horses and burros currently roaming BLM-managed rangelands in 10 Western states.

Photo: Thinkstock

Under federal legislation recently filed by a Utah congressman, wild horses and burros would be placed under the jurisdiction of the states in which they reside while remaining protected under the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971.

The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act federally protects wild horses and burros and places them under Bureau of Land Management (BLM) jurisdiction. The BLM estimates that there are 49,209 wild horses and burros currently roaming BLM-managed rangelands in 10 Western states.

Recently, wild horses in Nevada and Utah were the subject of lawsuits claiming that the BLM failed to remove excess animals from rangelands in those states, which allegedly threatens the livelihoods of ranchers who are permitted to graze their livestock on those ranges. Those lawsuits remain pending.

On July 10, Representative Chris Stewart (R-Utah) introduced a bill that would give states and Native American tribes the option to assume management of wild horses and burros residing within their borders. The bill, HR 5058, or the Wild Horse Oversight Act of 2014, would preserve the animals' protection under the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, but allow states to implement wildlife management plans based on their specific needs. If passed, the bill would allow states to form cooperative agreements to manage herds that cross state boarders, Stewart said. Under the legislation, the BLM would continue to inventory the animals to preserve population numbers prescribed in the 1971 act.

“Every state faces different challenges, which is why it’s important that they have the ability to manage their own wildlife,” Stewart said. “If horses and burros were under that same jurisdiction, I’m confident that new ideas and opportunities would be developed to manage the herds more successfully than the federal government.”

Tom Gorey, BLM spokesman, declined comment on the bill.

Wild horse advocate Suzanne Roy, director of American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, said the bill represents the interest of a vocal minority.

“The wild horses and burros are protected on federal land as part of our national heritage, (and) they belong to all Americans, not just a handful of ranchers who view them as competition for cheap grazing on federal land,” she said. “This bill is an attempt to hijack the federal law intended to protect these horses.”

Stewart's bill remains pending.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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