Printed on: April 01, 2013

Bill targets BLM's wild horse shipments to Montana

Associated Press

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) - A state lawmaker has introduced legislation aimed at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's plan that relocates to Montana wild horses from other states.

Sen. Kendall Van Dyk, D-Billings, sponsored the bill to require the Montana Department of Livestock to develop a management plan for wild horses imported into the state, The Montana Standard reported in a story published Friday (

"We scrambled to get a bill together," Van Dyk said. "I think the state needs to have some regulatory capacity. The BLM has a major problem on its hand, and we can't let them pawn their problem off on us. I don't want Montana to start looking like Nevada or Utah."

The BLM recently completed shipping 700 horses to a long-term holding facility at the Spanish Q Ranch in western Montana near Ennis following legal wrangling with neighboring ranchers. The bureau rounds up wild horses in western states that officials say would otherwise overpopulate and starve.

The Spanish Q has a 10-year contract with the BLM to house the horses at a cost of $1.36 per animal per day, much less than the average $5.50 cost at short-term facilities in Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, Utah and Oklahoma.

Van Dyk crafted the bill with Sen. Taylor Brown, R-Huntley, and Sen. Eric Moore, R-Miles City. The bill would require a permit fee of at least $100 for each imported wild horse or burro.

"These really aren't wild horses," Van Dyk said. "They're feral horses, and they are a serious problem for the BLM. Using taxpayer dollars to subsidize landowners to board these horses is not the answer. This can lead to serious problems to wildlife, watersheds, and neighboring owners. Those landowners have been ignored and deserve to be hard."

The BLM estimates there are more than 37,000 wild horses and burros roaming BLM rangeland in 10 western states. The agency estimates that number is 11,000 more than can adequately coexist with other resources on those rangelands, so periodically it rounds up animals and houses them in short-term and long-term facilities. About 49,000 horses live in such facilities.

"What I'm trying to do here is give the neighbors a seat at the table," Van Dyk said. "And I'm not just worried about one ranch in southwest Montana. I'm worried about what's next."