GAO recommends drastic action to rein in costs of caring for wild horses

The runaway costs of caring for wild horses both in Bureau of Land Management corrals and on the open range have reached a “critical crossroads,” according to a report released Monday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The investigative arm of Congress is calling for the euthanizing or sale of a significant portion of the approximately 30,000 wild horses currently in BLM captivity. Another 33,000 horses are roaming wild in 10 western states, including Colorado.

Wild horses date back to the Spanish conquistadors and have become a symbol of freedom in the American West, but the BLM has been charged with maintaining the health and managing the size of the herd since the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971.

The GAO report finds that the $37 million annual cost of the program is out of control and that nearly 75 percent of that money is now consumed by caring for captive horses that can live up to 20 years.

Exacerbating the problem in Colorado is the rising cost of caring for domestic horses, with some ranchers and private owners abandoning animals on public lands.

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About the Author

David O. Williams

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail
and Real Aspen.

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