BLM’s New Conservation Rule and Wild Horses

This month, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finalized a new rule that aims to integrate conservation into its current public lands management.


The rule states that the “BLM will protect intact landscapes, restore degraded habitat, and make informed management decisions based on science and data.” To support this goal, the final rule codifies conservation tools to be used in the agency’s Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) multi-use framework. FLPMA has provided the framework for the federal management of public lands since 1976. 


This final rule affirms that conservation efforts are on equal footing with other multi-uses across the 245 million acres of public lands the BLM manages. Sounds great for wild horses right?


Unfortunately, the BLM does not consider wild horse and burro habitat restoration a conservation use – thereby perpetuating a narrative that sidesteps the crucial role of wild horses and burros in maintaining ecological balance and ignores congressional intent in the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act that states they should be protected and managed as an “integral part of the natural system of public lands.” Instead, the new rule inexplicably considers “managed” commercial livestock grazing a conservation use. 


While AWHC is optimistic about new conservation initiatives for our incredible public lands (we are American Wild Horse Conservation after all!), we are disappointed in the BLM’s continued scapegoating of wild horses for the range degradation caused by commercial livestock grazing on public lands. This new rule offered a potential for the BLM to change course and invest in humane, scientific, data-driven conservation initiatives for wild horse habitat restoration, but it seems to have missed the mark.