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Bureau of Land Management
For Immediate Release: Monday, March 21, 2005
Tom Gorey
(202) 452-5137
Celia Boddington
(202) 452-5128

BLM Announces First Sale of Wild Horses to Tribes under New Law

The Bureau of Land Management today announced that it is selling more than 500 wild horses to two Indian Tribes in the Dakotas under a new law passed by Congress. The BLM has sold 141 wild horses (105 mares and 36 studs) to the Rosebud Sioux of South Dakota and 120 horses (96 mares and 24 studs) to the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota. Completion of other sales to these Tribes will take place over the next several weeks.

BLM Director Kathleen Clarke said, “As the BLM implements the new sale-authority legislation passed by Congress, we are pleased to announce our first sales to Tribes. We look forward to completing more sales with Tribes and all others interested in providing long-term care for the wild horses affected by the new sale-authority law.”

The Bureau carried out its first sale of wild horses – 200 mares to a Wyoming-based company – on March 1 under legislation recently passed by Congress. This measure, which became law in December 2004 (Section 142 of Public Law 108-447), directs the BLM to sell those wild horses and burros that are more than 10 years old or have been unsuccessfully offered for adoption at least three times. About 8,400 BLM-managed animals became eligible for sale under these criteria.

“I urge horse advocacy groups, humane organizations, and more Tribes – as well as the general public – to help the BLM find good homes for those horses affected by the new law,” said Director Clarke. The Bureau has set up a toll-free number for those interested in buying a wild horse or burro (1-800-710-7597). Interested groups or individuals may also contact the BLM at a new e-mail address regarding the purchase of wild horses and burros (

There are about 37,000 wild horses and burros roaming on public lands managed by the BLM in 10 Western states. Wild horses and burros have virtually no natural predators and their herd sizes on the range can double about every five years. As a result, the current free-roaming population exceeds by some 9,000 the number that BLM-managed rangelands can sustain. The Bureau has determined – on the basis of its analysis of rangeland conditions – that 28,000 is the number of wild horses and burros that BLM-managed rangelands can support in balance with other resources and other approved uses of the public lands.

Federal law authorizes the BLM to remove wild horses and burros from the range to control herd sizes; those animals removed are cared for in holding facilities and thousands are placed into private ownership through adoption each year. Since 1973, the BLM’s adoption program has put more than 203,000 animals into private care. Currently there are about 24,000 wild horses and burros cared for in short-term facilities in the West and long-term facilities in the Midwest.

The cost of holding and caring for wild horses and burros in both short- and long-term facilities is projected to be about $20 million in Fiscal Year 2005, which will be more than half of what the agency expects to spend on the wild horse and burro program in the current fiscal year. The cost of caring for and feeding a wild horse in a long-term facility is about $465 per animal per year.

The BLM manages wild horses and burros under the authority of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Congress has amended this law three times – in 1976, 1978 and most recently in December 2004, when it directed the BLM to sell wild horses and burros meeting the law’s newly established sale criteria. The BLM remains fully committed to its adoption program, which it will keep separate from its new sale-authority program. Thus, the Bureau will not be selling wild horses and burros at any of its adoptions.

The BLM manages more land – 261 million surface acres – than any other Federal agency. Most of this public land is located in 12 Western States, including Alaska. The Bureau, with a budget of about $1.8 billion, also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM’s multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Bureau accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, and cultural resources on the public lands.