When the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (WFRHB) was passed, the purpose was to guard one of the most sacred and iconic species of America—the wild horse. To protect the mustangs from abuse, slaughter, harm, and exploitation, the congressionally-passed mandate looked to sustain the horses, and has attempted to do so for the past four decades. However, the act may have sustained horses too well; public rangelands are now overpopulated, holding facilities are stockpiled, and authorities face the tough task of dealing with the plummeting welfare of horses and the rising costs to humans.
In the United States, wild horse herds and burros have expanded, nearly doubling, and excessively surpassed their Appropriate Management Level (AML) benchmark size set by the BLM; a benchmark to “manage wild free-roaming horses and burros… that is designed to achieve and maintain a thriving natural ecological balance on the public lands”1. The estimated population of free-roaming wild horses and burros under the authority of the BLM was almost 50,000 in March 2014, which exceeds the legislatively allowed level by more than 22,500.2 Likewise, for March 2016, the BLM reported further expansion of wild horse herd size greater than 67,000, now exceeding AML by over 40,000. 3 Left without intercession, the BLM states that the wild horse population would soar to 145,000 by 2020.
* Bureau of Land Management (BLM)