The Cost of Wild Horses

January 21, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

By Jamie Keyes, Utah State University Extension 

Feral horses are an important icon of the West to the public. Federal government funding is appropriate in a democracy setting, but where is the line drawn on funding? 

According to the Bureau of Land Management website, in 2009 the BLM spent more than $50 million dollars for the Wild Horse and Burro program. Ten million dollars more than the federal government allotted the program. More than half of the funding was spent on the care of unadopted horses, horses that have been removed from rangelands and are living on government funding in a BLM facility. Although the facilities are full, some complain there are still too many horses roaming public rangelands.

According to the BLM, there are an estimated 35,500 wild horses and burros living on 33.7 million acres. Of those 33.7 million acres, 26.9 million are public lands managed by the BLM and 6.8 million are non-BLM land. The feral horse population is increasing, and with that the federal funding is predicted to gradually increase too. 

This chart represents the projected BLM wild Horse and Burro budget for 2011. 

This is a projection from a research project represented in a Policy Forum published in Science Magazine. It predicts the future increase of government funding if maintenance practices stay the same.  

For more information visit A Critical Crossroad for BLM’s Wild Horse Program and Caring for America’s Wild Horses and Burros Fundamental Reforms—An Overview


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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.