It has been said time and time again that the population of wild Mustangs on public lands needs to be reduced, or at least that is what we are led to believe. But is over-population really an issue?
A study by the American Wild Horse Campaign states that the numbers of wild horses and burros on public and federal lands have drastically decreased from close to 2,000,000 in the year 1900 to only 75,000 today, while livestock numbers continue to increase. There is also a significantly larger amount of land that is made available to cattle ranchers than there is made available to wild horses. There are about 250,000,000 acres of land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management or the BLM. Of those 250,000,000 acres, livestock grazes on over half while wild horses graze on less than 50,000,000. Yet it is the horse that is considered the "problem".
Wild horses occupy just 17% of rangelands. That is less than one-fourth the of available public land, while livestock is allocated 75% of public land. This makes the claim of wild horse overpopulation ridiculous.
Each year the BLM conducts round-ups to remove both wild horse and burros (by the thousands) from public lands and relocates them to holding facilities. Currently, there are more horses in holding facilities than there are on the range. This form of "management" is costing taxpayers $47 million annually when there are more affordable and more humane ways to control populations. Suggestions have been made to use a fertility vaccine called PZP to help contain population numbers, but these efforts have not yet been implemented. Another suggestion (among others) would be to create public-private partnerships to implement humane management programs.
So, to answer the question "Is over-population really an issue?", I would think not. But the fight for our public lands will continue.