BLM releases new funding opportunity for wild horse and burro research


Bureau of Land Management

Media Contact:

Jason Lutterman

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Bureau of Land Management is accepting proposals from public and private organizations to fund new research in support of its efforts to manage and protect wild horses and burros while ensuring the health of the public lands they roam. The BLM anticipates awarding up to $2 million in total funding, subject to Congressional direction and appropriations. 

Proposed research should support the goals of the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Strategic Research Plan. Topics identified as priorities for funding include:

  • Developing new or improving existing fertility control methods for wild horses;
  • Examining the relationships between wild horses or burros and their environment (with special attention paid to climate change); and
  • Further improving a variety of wild horse and burro program activities, including aerial surveys, genetic monitoring, animal handling, adoption rates and/or BLM’s understanding of indigenous knowledge or the human dimensions of wild horse and burro management. 

The current population of wild horses and burros roaming public lands was an estimated 82,883 animals as of March, 2023. While this number is only slightly more than the 2022 estimate of 82,384, it remains more than three times the number of animals that is in balance with available resources.

With few natural predators capable of controlling herd growth, the health and welfare of wild horses and burros and their habitat depend upon effective management actions that control herd size, protect animal and habitat health, and prevent overpopulation. Overabundant populations of wild horses and burros can cause substantial damage to rangeland forage plants and soils; outcompete native wildlife species for scarce water; spread invasive plant species such as cheatgrass; reduce sage-grouse populations; limit post-fire ecosystem recovery; and affect authorized grazing. To the extent that excessive herds of wild horses and burros may consume high volumes of vegetation, cause erosion, foster ecological type conversion to annual grasslands, and hamper rangeland restoration projects, they can also contribute to net carbon release to the atmosphere. Finally, overabundant herds are at risk of starvation and drought impacts. 

Thanks to support from Congress, the BLM has removed nearly 70,000 animals and treated nearly 5,600 with fertility control since 2018 as part of its strategy to reduce the threat to these animals caused by overpopulation, overgrazing and severe drought. During the same time period, the BLM also significantly increased the number of animals placed into private care, finding homes for more than 42,000 animals in support of its efforts to reduce overpopulation on the range. 

The goal of the BLM’s research program is to improve humane fertility control methods and better understand how to manage wild horse and burro populations sustainably to ensure that the public lands in the agency’s care are healthy and capable of supporting native wildlife and plants, as well as the BLM’s multiple use mission. Learn more about the BLM’s science and research efforts in support of wild horses and burros.

The funding opportunity announced today supports the BLM’s efforts to apply the best available science in its management and protection of wild horses and burros on public lands. Additional details on BLM’s priorities for funding, as well as instructions for submitting a proposal, can be found in the Notice of Funding Opportunity. A similar Request for Proposals is also open for research proposals from federal agencies. The deadline for both solicitations is Feb. 1, 2024. 

The BLM also recently released an associated funding opportunity to support adoptions and other off-range operations, which closes on Jan.15, 2024. The BLM anticipates releasing an additional funding opportunity related to on-range projects (including on-range fertility control application) in December 2023. Additional guidance on applying for funding is available on the BLM’s website.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.