The Bureau of Land Management has announced internal policy changes it says will strengthen the humane treatment of mustangs and increase public transparency.
The new measures follow mounting unease among wild horse advocates over the treatment of wild horse during mustering operations.
The bureau’s acting director, Mike Pool, said the charges were part of an ongoing commitment to ensure the humane treatment of gathered animals.
“In addition, increasing public transparency is a cornerstone of this administration’s approach to our work. These new policies represent significant and substantial improvements, and we anticipate additional steps in the future to continue to strengthen this program.”
The new policies, informed by input from stakeholders, will guide wild horse and burro gathers and related activities. These gathers are conducted on federally managed Western rangelands where herd management areas that the BLM considers overpopulated.
The policies announced are designed to:
- Help ensure the humane treatment of animals during gathers;
- Establish protocols for the management of gathers that strengthen communications and teamwork;
- Provide for safe and transparent access for the public and media;
- Increase timely and accurate internal and external communications during gathers.
The new policies build upon those announced recently aimed at preventing wild horses and burros from being sold or sent to slaughter. This policy sets new conditions and restrictions on wild horse and burro sales, including that no more than four wild horses and/or wild burros may be bought by an individual or group within six months without prior approval of the bureau’s assistant director for renewable resources and planning, who oversees the program.
All of these policies are part of a broader review that the BLM is undertaking of its Wild Horse and Burro program.
Ongoing actions include expanding a variety of tools aimed at reducing herd growth, which will ultimately reduce the need to gather animals from the range.
“At the end of the day, we need to find better ways to manage for healthier animals and healthier rangelands so that we can keep these symbols of the American West on our nation’s public lands,” Pool said.
The new policies can be accessed here.
Wild horse advocate Laura Leigh, who travels the western rangelands to monitor wild horse gathers, said it was obvious that the bureau finally recognized the importance of the issue, but added that she did not see much specific language in the documentation.
“I am happy to see the issue being addressed but do not hold much hope that I will witness much change in certain districts.”
Leigh, however, was upbeat over the announcement.
“This is the first time in the history of the [Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros] Act we have seen the agency really begin to recognize that they have something of worth to manage,” she said.
“We have begun the process of creating a humane care standard but we still have to create the defined standard and enforce it. I don’t want to continue to see the same justification process for heart-breaking actions any more. But I will have to wait and see.”