WASHINGTON, D.C., June 22, 2016 – Congress must act quickly to keep fast-growing herds of feral horses and burros from further damaging the environment of the western United States, the American Farm Bureau Federation said today. At current rates, AFBF said, their already excessive numbers will double in a mere four years.
Callie Hendrickson, chair of AFBF’s Federal Lands Issue Advisory Committee, testified before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands. Hendrickson also serves as executive director of the White River and Douglas Creek Conservation Districts in Rio Blanco County, Colorado.
“The rangeland of the West has its share of unique natural resource challenges, not least of which is the burden it carries of an overpopulation of wild horses and burros,” Hendrickson said. “This overabundance is critically damaging the ecology of western rangelands with severe, long-term consequences for the native plant and animal life that call it home.”
Even though law requires it, the Bureau of Land Management has neither the money nor the ability to fairly balance wild horse and burro populations so that other wildlife, livestock and vegetation can thrive. Ranchers face rapidly shrinking grazing allotments while continuing to pay for the allotments they once had lest they lose them – if and when the grazing lands recover from severe overgrazing by feral horses and burros.
“Populations of wild horses and burros have been allowed to grow at a rate that in many places exceeds six times their authorized management level,” Hendrickson told the subcommittee. “This situation has not only led to widespread degradation of western rangelands, but has also had devastating effects on the health of the animals themselves who often face dehydration, starvation and death … The need for congressional intervention cannot be overstated.”
Colorado Farm Bureau (CFB) is the state’s largest grassroots organization with more than 25,000 members across the state. CFB seeks to promote and protect the future of agriculture and rural values.