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Adoptions Are Helping Address the Wild Horse Crisis

  • Jonathan Wood
  • For decades, the Bureau of Land Management has been between the proverbial rock and a hard place. The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burrows Act directs the agency to “protect” wild horses on the federal range and to “immediately remove” excess horses when they threaten rangeland ecosystems. But the agency’s efforts to satisfy these competing objectives have been stymied by a lack of tools, limited resources, and recurring conflict and litigation.

    This situation has significant and negative environmental consequences. Wild horses have suffered on the arid range as they compete for too little forage and water. The overcrowding has also depleted range health, degraded riparian areas and streams, and harmed native fish and wildlife. Although there is no single or easy solution to this problem, adoption incentives are a critical tool for reducing long-term off-range holding costs and freeing up resources to protect wild horses and conserve rangeland ecosystems.

    The American Wild Horses Campaign opposes adoption incentives based on unsubstantiated assertions that adopters may violate their contracts by selling horses to slaughter. While such misdeeds by bad actors would, if true, be cause for greater enforcement efforts, AWHC does not raise substantive claims or claims to compel enforcement. Instead, it principally raises procedural objections to the Wild Horse and Burrow Adoption Incentive Program—a program that PERC’s research was instrumental in establishing.

    The following amicus brief addresses the serious environmental consequences that have occurred due to wild horses growing too numerous for the range to support them, consequences that would only worsen if the Adoption Incentive Program were vacated.

    Written By
    • Jonathan Wood
      • Vice President of Law & Policy

      Jonathan Wood is vice president of law and policy at PERC, leading PERC’s Conservation Law and Policy Center.

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