The Bureau of Land Management has more wild horses and burros than it knows what to do with. Officials estimate that over 45,000 live on Western range with a carrying capacity of only 27,000 (HCN, 03/02/98: Colorado BLM going wild?). This year, with rangelands battered by severe drought, the question of where to put the animals has some officials looking across the border.

In August, Merle Edsall, a rancher and horse trainer in Montana and Arizona, suggested sending 10,000 wild horses to a sanctuary in Sonora, Mexico. Edsall would lease the land from Mexican landowners and use BLM money to care for the horses.

Animal rights groups, however, fear for the safety of the horses. "If the BLM would manage wild horses according to the Wild Horse and Burro Act, there would be no need to send these horses to Mexico," says Barbara Flores of the Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Coalition. The act set aside 300 herd areas, she says, but the BLM has reduced that to about 150 areas.

For now, Edsall's proposal is on hold. "It's an interesting idea," says the BLM's John Fend. But there is one main obstacle to the proposal: determining whether the BLM can legally place the horses outside U.S. borders and still give them the protection of the Wild Horse and Burro Act.