With the inception of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, the BLM and FS were mandated to manage free-roaming horses and burros in thriving natural ecological balance with wildlife, livestock grazing, and other public lands uses in accordance with the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960.
Appropriate management levels (AML) were established; in other words, the number of wild horses and burros that could sustainably exist in a given herd management area (HMA) alongside native wildlife and other types of mandated multiple use. The total number for all of Nevada’s 83 HMAs was determined to be 12,800. Currently, there are close to 53,000 on BLM and FS land, with another estimated 5500 on other lands, and populations can double every 3 to 5 years.
The result is the multi-faceted, ever-evolving crisis that we have on our hands today, with the immense overpopulation of wild equids having a devastating effect on the semi-arid high desert environment and scarce water resources, native wildlife populations, ranchers’ grazing rights, and on the welfare of the horses themselves.
The situation reached the point of being untenable years ago and only continues to worsen, due in no small part to animal extremist groups painting themselves as “wild horse advocates.” These groups have commandeered the management process through incessant lawsuits that stop desperately needed gathers, effectively emasculating federal agencies and their ability to properly manage wild horse and burro populations.