To combat an unsustainable wild horse population across public lands in the American West, the US government is offering up a hefty financial incentive to qualified horse trainers willing to take up the reins.
The Bureau of Land Management announced this month that it will pay up to $1,000 for people willing to provide a good home for wild horses and burros (small donkeys) removed from public lands. They will provide $500 within 60 days of adopting an animal and another $500 within 60 days of receiving a certificate of title, which normally takes about a year after adoption.
“Finding good homes for excess animals and reducing overpopulation on the range are top priorities for the BLM as we strive to protect the health of these animals while balancing other legal uses of our public rangelands, including allowing for other traditional land uses such as wildlife conservation and grazing,” said BLM Deputy Director of Programs and Policy Brian Steed in a press release. Though the average cost of adopting or selling an animal was just under $2,000 in 2017, the agency notes that adoptions are much less expensive than caring for an animal over its lifetime. BLM estimates the lifetime cost of housing a horse or burro in a short-term facility at nearly $50,000, although most off-range animals are cared for in less costly long-term pasture facilities.
Wild horses and burros are overpopulating rangelands and holding facilities at the expense of almost $50 million every year. At last count, the wild horse population was just shy of 82,000 animals – more than three times the amount the land can support in conjunction with other current uses. To combat this, the BLM holds horses in facilities to reduce overpopulation at a high cost. Continued overpopulation, the agency says, “increases the risk of damage to rangeland resources through overgrazing, and raises the chances of starvation and thirst for animals in overpopulated herds.”
“We understand that adopting a wild horse or burro represents a commitment. The incentive is designed to help with the adopter’s initial training and humane care,” said Steed. “I encourage anyone who has considered adopting a wild horse or burro to join the thousands of owners who have provided good homes to more than 245,000 wild horses or burros since 1971.”
In total, the agency manages 26.9 million acres of public land across 10 western states as part of its Wild Horse and Burro Program designated under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. The role of the BLM is to manage and protect wild horses and burros, and also remove excess animals from overpopulated herds.
You can view the adoption and sale schedule here.