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Public-private partnerships eyed to care for relocated wild horses

The Bureau of Land Management is looking to cut the cost of removing wild horses from Western lands. The agency wants to create public-private facilites that can provide long-term care for relocated horses. 

When public lands become overpopulated with wild horses, the Bureau of Land Management is charged with rounding up and removing the excess animals. Young horses are often adopted, but older horses are sent to privately owned pastures in the Midwest to live out the rest of their lives. The BLM says that can cost taxpayers about $500 a year or more per horse.

"The goal here is to get an arrangement or a deal for the taxpayers, in the sense that we would not incur the same costs that we do per horse in the long-term holding facilities,” said Tom Gorey, a BLM spokesman.

The BLM is soliciting proposals for what it calls wild horse ecosanctuaries on private land. Each one would need to be able to support at least 100 horses and be open to the public. Gorey says that provides sanctuary owners tourism and fundraising opportunities, like charging visitors or opening a gift shop. That would also help offset the cost of caring for the animals.

Gorey says wild horses are very important to the BLM. “They are special creatures, and it’s a responsibility that we are glad to have," Gorey said. "And yet, we know with it comes criticism from activists. All we can do is present what we think are the reasons we need to do what we do.”

Proposals are due by August 29.