An economic analysis of the wild horse and burro program

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Agriculture


In 1971 Congress enacted Public Law 92-195, known as the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, as a result of public concerns about wild horse abuse and population declines. As a consequence, the Wild Horse and Burro program was created to manage these animals under the administration of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In recent years as more wild horses have gone into long-term holding facilities, the costs of the program have increased to levels that are not likely to be politically sustainable. Two aspects of the Wild Horse and Burro program are analyzed in this thesis. First, the BLM's decisions regarding when to conduct a gather of excess animals and how many animals to remove are studied. A political economy analysis is developed to estimate the effects of interest groups on these decisions. Second, this thesis analyzes the relevance of horse characteristics in determining both the likelihood of a wild horse being disposed of and the price paid by adopters and buyers. To estimate the marginal value for each wild horse characteristic a hedonic price regression is estimated. The hedonic regression results are then used to estimate the benefits and costs of various modifications in the BLM's disposal program. The results obtained from the political economy analysis suggest that the decisions made by the BLM with respect to the removal of excess animals are responsive to the interests of grazing holders. The greater the level of overlap between grazing allotments and a herd management area, the higher the likelihood of the BLM conducting a gather and the more animals will be removed in a given year. The results obtained from the hedonic pricing model show that characteristics such as sex, color, training, and age are statistically significant in explaining the variation observed in fees paid by adopters and buyers. In addition, it is found that reductions in the standard minimum adoption fee would increase the number of wild horses the BLM is able to dispose of to private parties, and would save the taxpayers substantial sums by reducing the costs of keeping wild horses in long-term holding.




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