Oh, give them a home…. Wild horses have multiplied beyond the range of their federally provided roaming land. So the U.S. government went looking to round up some good-hearted souls with pastureland to spare.
Horses stampeding across the landscape form a classic image of the American West. It’s not just an American image though. For thousands of years, people have valued the power, strength, beauty, and spirit of the horse. Such marveling is recorded in the Bible. God spoke of His creative power displayed in this very animal. (Job 39:19-25)
But too many horses are now damaging the Western lands they need to survive. About 82,000 horses and burros roam the area managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM estimates that its lands can sustain only 27,000 horses well. Reducing the population is not an option, based on the 1971 Wild and Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act.
The federally protected animals need more space. About 36,000 currently live off-range on private lands. Moving thousands more to private pastures seems like a reasonable solution. And the government will pay for the right locations to home the wild horses.
Not just any farm will do. There are dozens of requirements.
The bureau requires enough fenced-in land to sustain 200 to 5,000 healthy horses before consideration. Exactly how much land depends on pasture quality. But each plot should be several hundred acres at least. Thousands? Even better.
Like in the wild, the pastured horses are left with little human intervention. Still, they require water and basic shelter from the elements, such as trees or a canyon. They’ll also need supplemental forage and corrals for loading and unloading from trailers.
Pasture providers must live in 14 Western and Midwestern states, from eastern Washington to the Texas Panhandle. Sorry, Appalachia and East Coast.
Participants must realize the horses aren’t pets. Many are too old for training. Adoption or sale is not an option.
In April, Nevada’s Department of Agriculture partnered with the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC). The AWHC group wants to preserve wild horses on public lands. It supports limiting population growth as the primary means of doing that. This spring and summer, seven trained AWHC volunteers will vaccinate mares in the Nevada herd with medicated darts. The vaccine prevents pregnancy in the darted mares to slow the herd’s growth.
The AWHC doesn’t oppose private pastures for wild horses. It does oppose keeping the beasts in corrals for long periods of time. The AWHC sees the Nevada darting project as a first step toward a long-term solution, so that free-range herds can roam in harmony with the land.