Bureau of Land Management awarding $11M to study birth control methods for wild horses and burros

$1 million of the grant will be reserved to investigate ecological relationships, including "effects of climate change on WHB populations."

Updated: January 15, 2022 - 10:55pm

This week's Golden Horseshoe is awarded to the Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for $11 million in anticipated research grants to study birth control methods for wild horses and burros (WHB), including possibilities such as tubal ligation, sterilization and IUD devices.

The Biden administration's FY 2022 budget request would increase the BLM's funding by $311.9 million over the enacted FY 2021 budget, bringing it to $1.6 billion, and allowing it to fund research such as the WHB fertility control project listed on Grants.gov. 

The government is currently operating under a stopgap spending bill which funds the government until Feb. 18.

The BLM is seeking researchers, according to the project's grant notice, to "develop and/or test fertility control methods that are safe, humane and applicable to female wild horse (sic) (mares) and which are longer-lasting than currently available fertility control methods used by the BLM in wild mares" or to "address ecological relationships between WHB and their environments, with studies that may also address the effects of climate change on WHB populations." 

The majority of the grant award of $10 million will be for the equine reproductive research, with the remaining $1 million reserved for studying the effects of climate change and other environmental factors on the species.

The agency's strategic research plan highlights many previously identified methods of reproduction control, including sterilization and other methods such as "intrauterine devices, oviduct ablation techniques, tubal ligation, ovariectomy."  

The BLM is funding this research to address other birth control methods, including male neutering.

"Fertility control methods for wild burros have been tested and applied, but to a lesser degree," the strategic plan states. "Development and testing of humane and effective fertility control methods for wild mares that are longer-lasting than currently available methods is vital to the BLM's ability to manage herd population growth rates."

The BLM has been studying fertility control practice for over 40 years, according to the plan documents. In 2020, for example, $11 million was approved by Congress for BLM to use an immunocontraception vaccine to control fertility

"The BLM is committed to finding the best, most effective and most humane ways to manage and protect wild horses and burros on public lands," said BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning when the funding opportunity was announced. "Using the best available science to humanely and safely control herd growth will reduce the need to gather excess animals and help protect the health of wild horses and burros, improve wildlife habitat and save taxpayers money." 

The closing date for grant applications was initially listed as Jan. 18, but a BLM spokesperson told Just the News it has extended the deadline to submit proposals to Jan. 31.

Up to $11 million could be awarded, however "exact amounts are unknown at the issuance of this [Notice of Funding Opportunity] and will be influenced by, among other factors, Congressional funding levels for the BLM and any specific directions for allocation of funds from Congress," the spokesperson said. "Applications will be reviewed and evaluated as they are received and may be submitted at any time up until the closing date of this NOFO." 

The climate change aspect of the grant will focus on how "predictions of future forage and water availability could inform local-level herd planning" and how "herd density and resource availability might interact under future climate change."

In its justification for a $1.6 billion budget, the BLM indicated it will support Biden's "ambitious agenda to address the climate crisis, restore balance on public lands and waters, promote a clean energy future, and create good-paying jobs with a free and fair chance to join a union." 

The BLM praised Biden's FY 2022 budget proposal at the time, saying the funds will help it achieve Biden's goals. "On our 75th anniversary, this proposed budget will support bold steps in conservation, restoration, and Tribal consultation in order to meet the President's goal of tackling the climate crisis, while managing approximately 245 million acres of public land under our multiple-use and sustained yield mandate," said BLM Deputy Director of Policy and Programs Nada Wolff Culver.