Feds predict more wild horse roundups this year than ever before

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By Scott Sonner, The Associated Press

RENO, Nevada— The U.S. government plans to capture more wild horses on federal lands this year than ever before, drawing heavy criticism from mustang advocates who hoped the Biden administration would curtail widespread gatherings of thousands of horses each year across the country. American West.

Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning, known as an ally to conservationists on several public land fronts when she was appointed in the fall, said the agency plans to remove definitely at least 19,000 horsepower and burros this year.

This is 70% more than the previous record from a year ago.

Critics say it’s a continuation of a decades-old policy that bows down to ranchers who don’t want horses to compete with their cattle and sheep for limited forage on agency rangelands in 10 States.

“It didn’t take long for Tracy Stone-Manning to sell America’s wild horses,” said Friends of Animals president Priscilla Feral.

In Nevada, home to about half of the 86,000 horses roaming federal lands, three groups have filed a lawsuit challenging what they say is the illegal and inhumane roundup of more than 2,000 horses that is already underway. near the Utah line.

Of the hundreds gathered so far, 11 have died, according to the agency’s website.

Wild horses gallop from a watering hole on July 8, 2021, near the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah. The US government plans to capture more wild horses on federal lands this year than ever before in a single year, sparking outrage among mustang advocates who relied on the Biden administration to limit widespread gatherings of thousands of horses each year . (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

At least one fatality was a foal that continued to be chased by a low-flying helicopter driving the herd to a holding pen, even though it had a “clearly broken” leg, according to the lawsuit. He says the colt suffered for at least 29 minutes before being euthanized.

“It is beyond disappointing that BLM is continuing the charade that they care about wild horses,” said Laura Leigh, president of Reno-based Wild Horse Education, one of the complainants.

Bureau spokesman Jason Lutterman declined to comment in an email to The Associated Press.

Stone-Manning said when announcing the 2022 roundup plans earlier this month that the animal population has declined since 2020 but is still triple what the government claims the earth can sustain ecologically. – which horse advocates dispute. The agency permanently removed 13,666 animals from the range in 2021.

The lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in Reno says the agency is exaggerating drought conditions and exploiting legal loopholes with 10-year plans that combine multiple horse management areas without the necessary site-specific assessments.

Meanwhile, he says taxpayers continue to fund subsidies for the livestock industry through below-market grazing fees for millions of cattle and sheep, causing more ecological damage than horses.

“Using the drought as a fig leaf for its illegal actions, the Bureau…depopulates the West of its wild horses and burros herd by herd and burns through taxpayer dollars with their endless roundups and detention facilities,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness. Action, co-lead applicant with the New York-based CANA Foundation.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says horse activists are threatening the future of pasture ecosystems and the well-being of the horses themselves.

“Groups that file lawsuits like this continue to prove that they would rather write emotional press releases than contribute to meaningful solutions,” said Kaitlynn Glover, the association’s director of natural resources.

Roundups are an important part of the process of balancing horse herds with range, she said.

The agency’s 2022 strategy includes treating at least 2,300 animals with fertility screening and releasing them onto public lands — an approach backed by some but not all horse advocates — to stem herd growth. which otherwise double approximately every five years. That’s nearly double the previous high of 1,160 in 2021, the bureau said.

The agency acknowledges that, in part because of a sharp decline in demand for captured horses offered for public adoption over the past 10 years, it has been left in “the untenable position of rounding up surplus horses as its holding costs are skyrocketing”.

The lawsuit says the environmental assessment the bureau approved in May for the Nevada roundup outlined plans for a series of “gradual roundups to remove excess animals” over a 10-year period, not “immediately.”

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