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Two-year wild horse study to cost $US1.5m

August 29, 2010

The Bureau of Land Management is seeking an independent review of its wild horse and burro programme, expected to cost about $US1.5 million and take about two years to complete.

Wild horses in the Arizona desert. © BLM
The federal agency has asked the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council (NAS/NRC) to undertake an independent technical review of the programme.

The bureau says it wants to ensure it is using the best science available in managing wild horses and burros on the western rangelands.

The NAS/NRC has previously produced three separate reports on the bureau's management of the programme, but these are now 20 to 30 years old.

In those reports, the NAS/NRC summarised what is known about the wild herds and made recommendations over their management, population estimation, and further research.

In the fresh report, many of the topics discussed in the earlier reports would be included, such as population estimation methods, annual herd growth rates, population control measures, and whether populations will self-limit, as well as other subjects needing new research.

"To sort through the many diverse and often conflicting opinions about how wild horses and burros should be managed, the bureau must continue to base its decisions on the best available science and involve the public in its decision-making process," the bureau said.

Commissioning the NAS/NRC to review the three earlier reports and the current available information and research about wild horses and burros was a first step, it said.

The second step would be to ask the NAS/NRC to make recommendations about future wild horse and burro management and needed research. A third step would be to take the NAS/NRC findings and recommendations and make them available to the public in several ways, perhaps in focus groups or science forums.

The bureau and NAS/NRC will negotiate the terms and outline for the study, with the research work hopefully beginning early next year.

The NAS/NRC is a non-federal, non-profit source of scientific advice. It enlists the nation's foremost scientists, engineers, health professionals, and other experts to address the scientific and technical aspects of society's most pressing problems.

Each year, thousands of these experts are selected to serve, without pay, on hundreds of study committees.



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