Stewart, Hatch introduce bills allowing states to manage wild horses, burros

Stock image, St. George News

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Chris Stewart and Sen. Orrin Hatch introduced legislation Thursday giving states and Indian tribes the option to take over the management of wild horses and burros. The Wild Horse Oversight Act of 2015 would preserve all protections under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 and allow states to implement horse and burro management plans that address the specific needs of their own state.

“The federal government has never been able to properly manage the horses and burros in the west,” Stewart said.“Every state faces different challenges, which is why it’s important that they have the ability to manage their own wildlife.”

In the 44 years that the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act has been in place, horse and burro populations have soared above the populations envisioned in the legislation. This has led to the destruction of important rangeland and habitat for native species.

The BLM is neither capable nor equipped to manage wild horse populations, and federal stewardship has allowed their numbers to reach unsustainable levels,” Hatch said. “Deferring management authority to states and tribes is a commonsense solution that will mitigate the devastating ecological consequences horse overpopulation is causing to public lands in the West. Ranchers shouldn’t have to pay such a steep price for the federal government’s inability to manage wild horse populations successfully.”

This bill would allow states to form cooperative agreements to manage herds that cross over borders, and the federal government would continue to inventory the horses and burros to ensure that the population numbers as prescribed by the 1971 Act are maintained.

“States and tribes already successfully manage large quantities of wildlife within their borders,” Stewart said. “If horses and burros were under that same jurisdiction, I’m confident that new ideas and opportunities would be developed to manage the herds more successfully than the federal government.”

A local approach would allow for coordination and partnerships between landowners, ranchers and other groups, Stewart said, “to provide better oversight and create a localized approach to each population and rangeland.”

Resources

  • House version of the bill
  • Senate version of the bill

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