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Mustangs are a symbol of our Western tradition; yet they are often reviled, as they compete for resources with livestock and wildlife in an ever-changing environment impacted by range fire and drought. Thousands end up in holding corrals far from home, never to return.
In 2017 about 73,000 horses and burros roamed free on designated grazing areas around the West. That's about three times the number originally set forth by Congress. The agencies charged with their care under the Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 are caught in the middle of a political and public affairs crisis as the current administration moves to cut the budget for wild horses and burros.
If this happens, the fate of nearly 50,000 excess animals gathered from the range is uncertain. They are cared for and fed by the government in holding corrals or off-range pasture at a cost of nearly $50 million taxpayer dollars per year. With populations out of control, solutions are dwindling for the Bureau of Land Management.
"The track that we're on is simply unsustainable," says BLM public affairs specialist Heather Tiel-Nelson. "The cost alone of managing wild and free roaming horses off the range is staggering."
Producer Sauni Symonds takes a look at what is happening with wild horse herds in our state and how some new ideas may offer solutions to a seemingly hopeless situation. "It's a very complicated and emotional issue for many, and at the heart of it is an icon of the American West, whose survival seems to depend on compromise and cooperation."