BLM seeks public comment on proposed wild horse research

The Bureau of Land Management is seeking public comments for three new proposed research projects focused on developing better, longer-lasting fertility control methods for managing and protecting wild horse herds on public lands. 

“Developing humane, safe, effective and long-lasting fertility control methods for wild horses is a top priority for the BLM,” said Dr. David Jenkins, BLM Assistant Director for Resources and Planning. “I encourage all interested members of the public to review this preliminary environmental assessment and submit comments about these proposed projects.” 

Absent intervention, wild horse herds typically grow very quickly – doubling in size every four years.  There were approximately 82,000 wild horses and burros roaming public lands as of March 2022, which is more than three times the appropriate herd size. An overpopulation of wild horses can degrade important ecosystems and lead to starvation and/or dehydration. Existing fertility control methods are short-lasting and require multiple doses, which limit their effectiveness as a management tool. Longer-lasting fertility control methods would be potent tools to better control herd growth and protect animal and land health. 

Two of the proposed research projects would quantify the effectiveness of vaccines for preventing pregnancies in wild horse mares: one would build upon previous research to develop a long-term one-dose vaccine, and a second project would test a fertility control vaccine that has some preliminary studies in horses and other animals. The third proposed research project would test specialized intrauterine devices (IUDs) in a wild horse herd management area on public lands. 

All the proposed projects would be required to follow BLM’s animal welfare policies when handling wild horses. Also, researchers would follow guidelines set by their respective Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees.

The BLM has analyzed the potential impacts of the three proposed research projects in a draft environmental assessment (DOI-BLM-HQ-2600-2022-0001-EA) as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. Instructions to access the draft analysis and to submit a comment can found by visiting the BLM’s ePlanning page. The deadline to submit comments is August 22, 2022. 

The BLM identified the development of safe, effective, and long-lasting fertility control methods as a top research priority in its 2021 Wild Horse and Burro Strategic Research Plan. The three proposed projects were submitted to the BLM by two federal agencies, four universities, and other organizations in response to a solicitation seeking new research projects in November 2021.

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.

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Bureau of Land Management