Congressman Criticizes BLM Policies

Arizona Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva criticized a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decision to create nonreproducing herds in two Wyoming Herd Management Areas (HMAs) as detrimental to wild mustangs and burros, and claimed that the agency's herd census methods are flawed.

In a July 5 letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and BLM Director Bob Abbey, Grijalva, a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, asked the BLM not to geld stallions or spay mares to achieve nonreproducing herds on grounds that the castration and spay procedures endangered animals' lives and that under the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, sterilization should not be used to create nonreproducing herds.

"Although sterilization is mentioned in the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, it is intended to reference population control, and not the creation of completely nonreproducing herds, which would result in the extinction of wild horses in their legal herd areas," Grijalva wrote in the letter.

Grijalva suggested the agency use natural controls including predator management to control herd growth: "Predator management through mountain lions has been enormously successful in stabilizing the population of the Montgomery Pass herd on the California-Nevada border. Due to predation of foals by mountain lions, that herd has not had a roundup in almost 30 years."

The letter also criticized BLM census methods as inadequate for producing an accurate count of animals residing on agency-managed ranges. The BLM uses census information to determine when and where gathers should take place. Grijalva suggested the agency use unmanned aircraft equipped with multispectral cameras to conduct its census operations.

Finally, Grijalva asked the BLM to suspend all gathers pending results of a National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council (NAS/NRC) review of the agency's wild horses and burros. The NAS/NRC is,an independent nonprofit group that advises government agencies on scientific issues. Last year several members of the U.S. House of Representatives called for the review to take place. Subsequently, the BLM requested the NAS/NRC to review science-based animal population estimation methods, annual herd growth rates, and population control measures, and to make recommendations for future wild horse and burro management techniques.

BLM Spokesman Tom Gorey said the agency is reviewing the letter.

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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