6, 2013

Dear Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board: The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation appreciates the opportunity to comment before you today would like to remind the Board that feral horses and burros found on western landscapes today are not native wildlife and are significantly overpopulated on our western public rangelands. Research in the Great Basin has shown that feral horses have impacted native plant communities. The grass and shrub components have been reduced, affecting forage quantity for native ungulates and plant cover needed for ground nesting birds. This can lead to more invasive plant species such as cheat grass where feral horses roam. Riparian and wetland areas have also been impacted by feral horses through soil compaction and increased erosion, depending upon seasonal timing, intensity and duration of use. Water is scarce in many western landscapes occupied by feral horses and these same horses tend to protect water sources from wildlife use, particularly elk, deer, pronghorn and bighorn sheep, forcing them to other areas which may be less suitable habitat. Horses tend to use higher elevations and steeper slopes than cattle which cause a direct conflict with elk, deer and bighorn sheep use of crucial winter ranges. Horses tend to clip the vegetation closer to the ground which may affect the plant growth for the remaining growth cycle or for future growth years. It is unfortunate that Congress passed specific legislation protecting non-native horses, further complicating management of range resources while the conservation of native plants and animals in the ecosystem may not be given the same attention or budget considerations. RMEF has always supported scientific management of wildlife and habitat. Additionally, we have granted millions of dollars to federal and state agencies to battle invasive non-native plants that compromise native ecosystems. We encourage the BLM to use every available tool including sterilization and euthanasia to reduce the feral horse and burro numbers down to the 26,677 population objective and maintain the population at that level. Sincerely,

Blake L. Henning Vice-President of Lands and Conservation