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Lethal measures off table for controlling wild horse herds

This July 2007 photo shows wild horses being herded by the Bureau of Land Management at the Black Mountain and Hardtrigger Herd Management Areas in the Owyhee Mountains southeast of Marsing, Idaho.

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Trump administration will not pursue lethal measures such as euthanasia or selling horses for slaughter to deal with what officials say is an ecological and fiscal crisis caused by too many wild horses on rangelands in the U.S. West, an official said Thursday.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management Acting Director Casey Hammond told the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board that those options are not on the table.

“It’s not an option that’s being discussed,” Hammond said. “I don’t think it’s anything the president would be supportive of, so it’s not part of the calculation that we’re making.”

The agency is preparing a report requested by Congress on potential solutions for the wild horse problem.

Federal officials say the nearly 90,000 wild horses in 10 Western states are more than three times appropriate levels. Officials estimate that up to 18,000 foals are born each year.

Another 50,000 wild horses are being held in corrals at a cost of $50 million annually, which is more than half of the Bureau of Land Management’s budget for its Wild Horse and Bureau Program.

The six-member panel agreed that killing wild horses to control the population wasn’t something they were interested in doing, but also cited the ecological destruction to rangelands and the potential for wild horses held in corrals to exceed 100,000 if current policies continue.

“Our window for being able to act and not have to go there (euthanasia) by force at some point, regardless of what our interests are, are closing,” said board member Celeste Carlisle.

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Hammond agreed that the wild horse and burro problem was approaching a critical juncture.

“I’ll be honest with you,” he told the board, “the smart political thing in this program is really to do nothing. Other administrations were just brilliant. We don’t have that option to do nothing. We have to take on this, and we’re going to take some lumps.”

Potential solutions that have been considered include new sterilization methods, aggressive adoption efforts and holding more horses in corrals.

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