The need for drastic changes to the $US70 million wild horse and burro management program in the US were signaled by its division chief in an internal working document last August.
The internal working document, released under the US Freedom of Information Act, outlines options to Greg Shoop, assistant director of renewable resources and planning in the Bureau of Land Management.
It was first obtained and published online by the Texas-based Wild Horse Freedom Foundation.
In the memo, Joan Guilfoyle says the program is nearing the point of financial insolvency due to what she called “undesirable trends in every aspect of the program”.
The trends were preventing program goals being reached and were increasing costs.
Guildoyle said declining funding, growing on-range populations, increasing off-range numbers in holding facilities, falling adoption numbers, and decreasing long-term holding pasture space were all problems for the program.
She also cited “increasing costs for every program element” as a concern.
Voicing concern over the prospect of continued funding reductions, Guilfoyle raised the option of ceasing wild horse gathers as a stop-gap measure until longer-acting and more effective contraceptives can be developed.
She recommended a cap on off-range horse numbers, meaning no removals would be conducted until numbers were below the cap.
Guilfoyle also raised the possibility of euthanizing animals on the range as an act of mercy if animals declined to near-death condition due to water and forage constraints.
She argued for an aggressive adoption/sales program to reduce holding numbers as quickly as possible, with the aim being to place the animals in good homes.
Guilfoyle also recommended an on-range sterilization program combined with the use of the long-term contraceptive PZP.
She warned that, “considering the circumstances, on-range management goals may not be achieved for another 20 years”.
However, Bureau of Land Management spokesman Tom Gorey told AP it was a “preliminary discussion document” produced in “recognition of the tight fiscal climate”. It was based on projections that lawmakers would cut more from the budget than it ended up doing last fall.
Gorey said it explored a range of interim measures that could be implemented until more sustainable actions were available.