From Horseback Magazine
Compiled by Laura Leigh
Photo by Ginger Kathrens
BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, WA, - In 1974 there were approximately 57,000 wild horses and burros actually counted on public lands.
Today - There are fewer than 36,000 wild horses and burros estimated on public lands.
In a December 1971 report to Congress the BLM estimated that there were about 9500 wild horses and 7500 burros on public lands.
In 1974 a ground count was done and found about 42,000 horses and 15,000 burros.
The next year, the BLM concedes there were probably considerably more than 9500 horses in 1971; probably closer to 28,000. (Allowing for the assumed 10% "overcount" still doesn't reconcile the difference between 42,000 and 28,000. Nonetheless the doctored numbers are the ones generally offered to the public and the actual count isn't acknowledged unless someone asks specific questions about the 1974 horse and burro census.)
*The 1974 census was limited to BLM and US Forest Service lands did not include several thousand horses and burros found within National Parks or US Fish & Wildlife Properties.
The present population figures of 37,000 circulated by BLM includes both horses and burros, approximately 20,000 head fewer than counted in the 1974 census.
Since 1971 wild horses and burros have been removed from 102 ranges (Herd Areas) representing a loss of approximately 13 million acres of land. (There were 303 original Herd Areas - now only 201 Herd Management Areas [HMAs] remain.
Wild horses and burros now reside on 34,549,570 acres of the 261,950,378 acres managed by BLM
Oct. 2008 GAO-BLM
In fiscal year 2007, the program was funded at $36.4 million under BLM’s Management of Lands and Resources appropriation. Forty-four BLM field units manage approximately 33,100 wild horses and burros on 199 Herd Management Areas (HMA) covering over 34 million acres in 10 western states— Arizona, California, Colorado , Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.4 BLM’s Nevada State Office manages about half of the land and animals in the Wild Horse and Burro Program
BLM permits far more cattle and sheep to graze on BLM managed lands than horses.
Specifically, in fiscal year 2007, approximately 567,000 head of cattle or sheep grazed BLM public lands. However, livestock are managed on 160 million acres of BLM lands, compared to the 29 million BLM acres that supports horses and burros.
BLM is currently compiling a history of how BLM field offices made the determination to manage wild horses and burros on the current 34.3 million acres, compared to the 53.5 million acres where they were originally found in 1971. According to BLM officials, they expect the review to be completed by March 2009.