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BLM wild horse roundups

Wild horses
Photo Credit: R.T. Fitch

Wild horse activists are asking a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit that seeks the removal of thousands of wild mustangs from Western ranges, reports the Associated Press. 

Federal judges have historically tossed out requests from horse groups, noting their inability to overrule the expertise of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

In December, for instance, two rural interest organizations in Nevada filed a suit for more roundups of overpopulated herds of wild horses that compete with livestock for natural resources (e.g., water, forage). 

The suit would allow the Bureau of Land Management to sell the unwanted and old horses without the ban on resale for slaughter—an act which enrages horse groups like the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign.

The group supports a different method of population control: administering fertility control, which it claims is a cheaper and more humane solution. 

The Nevada groups claim that the excess abundance of these animals, which are non-native to Nevada, has a negative impact on their health and ecological being of the rangelands in Nevada, where half the animals are estimated to be.

Wild horse roundups in Nevada were proposed in 2008 as part of a management plan at the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, and was approved by federal officials in late 2012. That plan called for the removal of all horses and burros from the area within five years.

In that case, the removal was deigned to protect the habitat for the sake of the pronghorn antelope that live in the refuge.

Across the 10 western states, BLM estimates that there are over 40,000 horses and burros roaming around—about 14,000 more than it cites the land can maintain. The BLM aims to remove about 8,000 a year, but in 2013 only removed about 4,000 due to financial strains.

More roundups will continue, pending court decisions in favor of proponents that would stop or slow the process.

Due to the extensive knowledge that BLM possesses regarding such topics, and former court rulings in its favor, proponents may have a difficult task ahead of them.

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