Ken Salazar was commenting on his proposals to create up to seven new preservation areas on more productive land further east of the horse's current western rangelands to rehome some of the animals.
His plan involves aggressive use of contraception and the relocated horses would be in non-reproducing herds.
"The fact is that the American public has shown that it does not want, essentially, to have a slaughtering of these animals," Salazar said.
"It's a public value that has been tested now multiple times through votes in the United States Senate and US House of Representatives.
"So what we have to do is manage these wild horses and burros in such a way that addresses the imperatives that I see in this challenge.
"Those imperatives are, first, that we protect the horses and burros, second, that we protect our public lands and third, that we protect the American taxpayer."
Salazar, whose planned has drawn a mixed reaction from wild horse advocates, said his would ensure that the herds on the Western rangelands are kept at more sustainable levels.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
Salazar continued: "I believe we need to better showcase the herds on the public lands where they already are in the West, and places where we believe those places and those herds can receive special recognition.
"For that reason I will, as we implement this proposal, highlight special herds and ranges through a Secretarial Order, under the 1970 law that gives me as Secretary the authority to provide those designations.
"I will make those designations in a way that will provide monuments to these wild horse special places across the West."
Salazar said the more productive lands of the Midwest and the East, which he proposes as the location of the new preservation areas, would provide more water and more forage than the arid lands of many places such as Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico.
"We believe that the national preserves would provide excellent opportunities to celebrate the historic significance of wild horse, showcase these animals to the American public and serve as amenities that would drive local tourism and economic activity that would create jobs in those rural areas.
Those voicing opposition to the plan fear the ongoing viability of the western herds, and point out that horses are already missing from a number of designated herd areas.
There are an estimated 33,000 horses across the western rangelands - 5000 more than the Bureau of Land Management considers appropriate for long-term sustainability of the environment.
Salazar said: "The arid Western lands and watersheds, in my view, simply cannot support a population that is this large without significant damage to the environment."