The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is now accepting proposals for new research projects to develop fertility control methods for wild horse mares. The agency is also seeking proposals for research that analyzes how wild horses and burros interact with their environment and how management may be impacted by future climate change.
The requests come following the recent release of the 2021 Wild Horse and Burro Strategic Research Plan, which includes developing longer-lasting fertility control methods as a top priority.
“Using the best available science to humanely and safely control herd growth will reduce the need to gather excess animals and help protect the health of wild horses and burros, improve wildlife habitat and save taxpayers money,” said BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning.
Wyoming lawmakers are drafting a set of bills to control wild horse and burro populations on nonfederal lands by billing the federal government for grazing costs or by issuing court orders to remove excess wild horses.
The strategic research plan also includes a priority to better understand the interaction between wild horses and burros and their environment. This includes projecting the effects of climate change on rangeland resources and herds, or the effects of herds on ecosystems’ resilience to climate change.
BLM said extreme drought conditions caused emergency actions to gather over 7,000 wild burros and horses this year—more than seven times the amount gathered through the previous year.
“We’re already seeing the impact of climate change and prolonged and extreme drought on the resources that all animals who share the range depend on, including wild horses and burros,” Stone-Manning said. She said the new research will help the agency better understand the effects of climate change and what action can be taken to protect the health of the herds and their habitats.
An animal advocacy organization is filing suit to suspend the federal government’s wild horse and burro adoption program, stating that, despite federal protections, the animals are ending up in slaughterhouses.
BLM estimates more than $1 million will be available for research grants, pending congressional appropriations. Proposals will be evaluated by external peer reviewers and selected for award in fiscal year 2022. The deadline to submit proposals is Jan. 18. Nonfederal researchers can submit a proposal at grants.gov, while federal researchers can submit a grant on blm.gov. — Anna Miller, WLJ managing editor