RENO, Nev. (AP) — Wild-horse fertility control and sage-grouse habitat conservation are among top priorities in the proposed $1.1 billion budget for the federal Bureau of Land Management. President Barack Obama's request for the 2015 fiscal year calls for an increase of $2.8 million in funding for the agency's wild horse and burro program, and would allow it to continue studies to develop more effective contraceptive drugs and techniques.

The BLM has pledged to step up the use of fertility control as an alternative to controversial roundups of what it calls overpopulated mustang herds on U.S. rangelands in the West. Agency officials say that if approved by Congress, the request would further the BLM's implementation of recommendations made by an independent panel of the National Academy of Sciences in 2013.

In a report highly critical of the BLM, the panel says the agency should invest in widespread fertility control of the mustangs instead of spending millions to house them. It concludes the BLM's removal of nearly 100,000 horses from the Western range over the past decade is probably having the opposite effect of its intention to ease ecological damage and reduce overpopulated herds.