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Wild Horses and Burros on National Forests in the West are Part of America’s History

America ‘s wild horses and burros have a rich history and are living symbols of the pioneer spirit of the West.  But did you know that protecting this heritage is also a part of the mission of the U.S. Forest Service?

In fact, the agency manages more than 30 wild horse or burro territories on more than two million acres in Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah.

“The animals that have survived on the range are a genetic and historic remnant of the Old West,” said Barry Imler, the agency’s National Program Manager for Wild Horses and Burros. “The characteristics that were important in the Old West days are still found in our wild horses and burros — strength, endurance and reliability.”

Spanish explorers reintroduced horses to the Americas in the 15th century. Other sources that contributed to wild horse populations included losses from wagon trains, ranchers, pony express, loggers, and farm stock. In addition, the U.S. Calvary, stage lines, and bankrupt farmers and ranchers intentionally turned horses out on the public lands as recently as during the Depression.

Burros accompanied Spanish missionaries to the Americas and were later used by prospectors as sturdy pack animals. Burros also worked in mines hauling ore and supplies into desolate mining camps. When the mines shut down, the burros were turned loose to join those that had escaped from the missionaries and prospectors.

“The U.S.Forest Service is required to balance management of wild horses and burros with other uses, such as livestock and wildlife,” Imler added. “The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act requires that these horses and burros are managed in a thriving ecological balance with the land and as part of the natural landscape.”

Wild horses roam the Jicarilla Territory on the Carson National Forest in New Mexico. Photo Credit:  Forest Service photo

Wild horses roam the Jicarilla Territory on the Carson National Forest in New Mexico. Photo Credit: Forest Service photo

This sometimes requires that excess in these populations must be removed from an area in order to preserve and maintain a thriving natural ecological balance and multiple-use relationship in that area.  Thus, the health of the land and the health of the animals requires that excess wild horses and burros are removed from their territories.

Fortunately, they often find a good home through adoption with the American public.  Those that are not adopted, are placed in long-term pastures where they live out their natural lives on the prairie. However, this is a costly option so adoption of wild horses and burros is preferred.  Learn more about Curly, a five-year old stud, and the successful adoption of his band of 12 wild horses from the Jicarilla Wild Horse Territory on the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico.

10 Responses to “Wild Horses and Burros on National Forests in the West are Part of America’s History”

  1. Richard Kanak says:

    They may be part of history but not part of the native fauna. It seems to me that the $30 million spent on sustaining this herd is money better spent in other areas. We destroy native wolves and yet we support a non-native invasive species.

  2. Ellen Goodman says:

    This description of the role of the U.S. Forest Service in connection with wild horses and burros constitutes a fanciful whitewash of the brutal torture and cruelty that actually govern the behavior of the U.S. Forest Service toward wild horses and burros. Thousands of citizens are doing everything in their power to stop the extermination being conducted by the U.S. Forest Service. I simply cannot believe the deceit and double-talk contained in this pronouncement. Your description is straight out of Orwell’s dysutopian masterpiece, “1984.” You do not help the herds, you haza, harrass, imprison, torture, neuter, and kill them. Until you are willing to admit the truth, you stand condemned by countless citizens of animal abuse and crimes against nature. How dare you present this smug set of lies!

  3. Betsy Brown says:

    I have a question… were 40+ donkeys transported today to El Paso for slaughter??
    Thanks for your quick response to this question.. If they were … Why? and can we rescue them?

  4. Betsy Brown says:

    I need to clarify … I meant 40+ burros for slaughter to Mexico.

  5. patricia l stahler says:

    yes i support saving the wild horse

  6. Dane says:

    Are you serious? They are not native and destroy everything they touch. What a load of lies, and the US taxpayer is footing the bill.

  7. Chris Daley says:

    Seeing wild horses has always been a thrill for me. They spook easily of course but can be onery so keep your distance. Colorado, Wyoming and North Dakota is where my encounters occured.

  8. Buck Lucky says:

    They are destroying our Habitat for most of our native species. Lack no predators, and are not destroying crops. Wild horses might be part of the “Wild West” I wasn’t always wild, It was pure… HAV

  9. Buck Lucky says:

    Correction:

    “They are destroying our Habitat for most of our native species. Lack no predators, and are destroying crops. Wild horses might be part of the “Wild West” I wasn’t always wild, It was pure… HAV”

  10. dakota O'Conner says:

    “Those that are not adopted, are placed in long-term pastures where they live out their natural lives on the prairie.” lie. they are all bunched up into small holding pens. stallions put with other stallions. mare foal and stallions all together in one small crowed holding pen. they are not deystorying the habitat. they dont to much damage. they eat grass and some bushes. well so do deer and other herbavors. and technicaly if an animal has been wild in a place for over 100 years they are considered native. and the other aniamls have learned to addapt to them. thats why they arent all extinct. horses are more than just live stock or animals. they practicaly walked us through history. we used them for tranporstation, mining, packing around our stuff, cop horses, fire horses, lugging trees for wood, charging us into battle, and more. thats how they got loose and became wild after generations. i support wild horses and burros!

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