Public Land Management:

Observations on Management of Federal Wild Horse Program

T-RCED-91-71: Published: Jun 20, 1991. Publicly Released: Jun 20, 1991.

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GAO discussed the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) wild horse program. GAO noted that: (1) BLM removed thousands of wild horses from the range each year without the land condition data that would enable it to determine how many horses the land could support and how many needed to be removed to meet this capacity; (2) the number of wild horses BLM removed exceeded its adoption program's capacity; (3) BLM was making its removal decisions on the basis of an interest in reaching perceived historic population levels or the recommendations of advisor groups largely composed of livestock permittees; (4) the fee waiver adoption program led to the inhumane treatment and eventual slaughter of thousands of horses; and (5) since wild horse sanctuaries would probably not achieve the BLM objective of being self-sustaining in 3 years, the government would either have to commit to long-term financial support or have the horses returned to its custody. GAO also found that BLM: (1) was implementing a comprehensive management plan for Nevada, and anticipated full statewide implementation in about 4 to 5 years; (2) published a rule in September 1990 making it difficult for one person to gain control over a large number of horses; and (3) took such actions to improve the prison halter training effort as establishing quality standards for the training being provided, implementing tighter controls over the age of horses receiving training, and limiting the amount of time horses could spend in training facilities.

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