The Bureau of Land Management to award contracts for seven new wild horse off-range pastures
GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado — As part of an ambitious, multi-pronged strategy to reduce overpopulation of wild horses and burros on public lands, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced today that it will award the first of seven contracts for new wild horse off-range pastures in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Washington. These pastures will help free up capacity in the BLM’s network of off-range corrals, which directly support management operations on public lands and the agency’s adoption and sale programs for placing animals into private care.
Altogether, the seven new facilities will increase the agency’s off-range holding capacity by approximately 5,000 head. The remaining contracts will each be awarded over the next several weeks as environmental analyses are completed.
Public-private collaborations are key to the BLM’s strategy. Off-range pastures are a critical component of the BLM’s infrastructure for managing wild horses and burros. They are also a more cost-efficient option for holding excess animals over the long term, as they are generally less than half the cost of holding animals in off-range corrals.
The BLM manages wild horses and burros on approximately 26.9 million acres of public land throughout 10 Western states. In order to maintain a healthy ecological balance and support other public uses of these lands, the agency must keep herd sizes at sustainable levels. The agency achieves this primarily by gathering and re-homing excess animals. Those animals that cannot be placed into private care through adoption or sale are held in off-range pastures or corrals at taxpayer expense. There are currently about 50,000 wild horses and burros being held in off-range facilities.
Managing wild horses and burros on public lands is critically important for rangeland health and the health of other wildlife, including many threatened and endangered species. The BLM’s mission also supports the diverse economies of the West that are closely connected with America’s public lands, including ranching, recreation and mineral and energy development. As of March 1, 2020, the wild horse and burro population on public lands was estimated to be about 95,000, which is more than triple the appropriate management level set by the agency. The addition of these seven new off-range pastures will support the agency’s efforts to move toward sustainable populations on public lands.
The seven new facilities (with approximate capacities) will be located in:
- Hepler, Kansas (650 head)
- Maxwell, Nebraska (1,240 head)
- Ramona, Oklahoma (450 head)
- Atlee, Oklahoma (630 head)
- Kelso, Oklahoma (approximately 300 head)
- Welch, Oklahoma (700 head)
- Sunnyside, Washington (1,000 head)
Each of these off-range pastures is located on private property. As such they are generally not open to the public except during periodic tours arranged by the agency. The BLM does have special contracts with four other ranches in Kansas, Oklahoma and Wyoming that operate as Public Off-Range Pastures. These pastures also provide safe, free-roaming environments where the animals receive humane care for the remainder of their natural lives.
Individuals can arrange to visit any of these Public Off-Range Pastures to view horses and/or take advantage of other amenities the ranches offer. Contact information is available at https://www.blm.gov/programs/wild-horse-and-burro or by calling 866-468-7826. Access may currently be restricted as facilities seek to limit the spread of COVID-19 under state and local guidelines.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. Diverse activities authorized on these lands generated $111 billion in economic output across the country in fiscal year 2019—more than any other agency in the Department of the Interior. These activities supported more than 498,000 jobs.