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Feds Look For A Solution To Wild Horse, Burro Overpopulation

U.S. Bureau of Land Management
handout | agency
Gold prospectors first introduced burros to northwestern Arizona in the mid-19th century.

The latest federal numbers show more than twice the number of wild horses and burros on western U.S. range lands than resources can tolerate, with herd size doubling every four years.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meets Thursday to discuss managing the overpopulation.

The major topic of the meeting is population control, including the use of a sterilization drug called PZP.

“We used to have quite a number of adoptions that took place nationally that help take most of those horses that we were gathering, off the range," said Neil Kornze, U.S. director of the Bureau of Land Management. "That has, for the most part, disappeared. And so we still have the strong increase in population every year, but we don’t have the private individuals stepping forward in the way they used to.”

Arizona has the second most overcrowded range land, after California, with the most burros in any western state. Nevada has the highest number of wild horses.

Chart created with data from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

“We are at a crisis point, because the agency has stuck with round-up and removal," said Gillian Lyons, Wild Horse and Burro program manager at the U.S. Humane Society. "We are in financial straights.”

Lyons said the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM’s effort to manage the overpopulation of wild horses across western states by rounding them up with helicopters and herding them into holding pens is not the best, most cost-effective method.

Val Hogsett, animal advocate and president of Citizens Against Equine Slaughter, said an alternative method– a sterilization drug called PZP - is a much better way to manage wild horse populations across the west.

“What we want to see them give that land back to horses, start treating them with PZP and manage them on the range– which would be so much more cost effective than having them in long-term holding and running these helicopters all the time,” Hogsett said.

The advisory board meeting takes place Thursday, Sept. 8 in Elko, Nevada starting at 1 p.m. It will be live streamed onlineand includes an opening for public comments.

Heather van Blokland moved to Phoenix in March 2016 to join KJZZ as a host/producer, after working as an on-air host/producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, covering middays, weekends and most everything in between. van Blokland previously worked as a Morning Edition host and reporter at Florida NPR affiliate WUFT-FM, covering business and agriculture beats. She was also the local producer and editor for StoryCorps’ story booth.Like many in public media, van Blokland brings a diverse background to her daily duties. Her first career was in the private sector as a financial analyst manager in commercial and investment banking. She also used to teach canoeing and kayaking on the local rivers in North Central Florida. Her education includes a master’s in mass communication from the University of Florida, a bachelor’s in finance, marketing and multinational business from Florida State University, and a diploma in acting for film and television from Vancouver Film School in Vancouver, British Columbia. She wrote and produced a film, later submitted to the Vancouver International Film Festival.In her free time, van Blokland enjoys exploring the outdoors, everything from a hike on South Mountain to Vancouver's Butchart Gardens to a ride through Swaziland’s Mkhaya Game Reserve. Her travels have included South Africa, Swaziland, western Canada, Australia, the British Isles, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay and summers on the outskirts of London. She is also a certified open-water diver, and still looking to apply that skill in Phoenix.Half Southern and half English, van Blokland enjoys using phrases that surprise people. She does not enjoy steak and kidney pie or Monty Python. You can send your ardent disagreements with this statement to her directly at [email protected].