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article imageBureau of Land Management plans round-up of 25,000 wild horses

By Stephanie Dearing     Dec 8, 2009 in Environment
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is planning to round up and relocate up to 25,000 wild horses, although the plan is facing criticism. However, the plan is a shift from last year's intention to put down the wild mustangs.
Nevada - Opponents want a moratorium on the plan until a count of the wild mustangs has been conducted. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been saying that the mustangs are in danger of starving because of the increase in their numbers. The Bureau plan was pitched to a number of American Congressmen who have authority over wild horses and burros in October by the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar.
Under that plan, the animals would be relocated to new preserves in Eastern U.S.A. The animals presently live in Western United States. The eastern preserves would be purchased by the BLM or its partners under the proposal. Secretary Ken Salazar said in a letter to Congress members that the BLM budget for horses had increased to $69 million for 2010, almost double the 2007 allotment of $38.8 million. Opponents are saying that the relocation plan runs afoul of the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act. The position of the BLM is that the horses are starving. Opponent Cheryl Crow told the Associated Press "We don't believe it."
Opponents want a congressional hearing into the BLM's management of wild horses. At the heart of the issue are the numbers of wild horses. The BLM says there are 69,000 wild horses, while opponents are asking for a head count.
The BLM already rounds up thousands of wild horses every year, penning them in temporary corrals in order to feed them. The Wild Mustang Coalition says that this approach is expensive, citing a recent round-up of 2,700 wild horses that cost nearly $1 million. While the BLM says its plan is cost-effective, the organization has not released the cost. The relocation of the planned 25,000 horses would take place over a three year period.
Other opponents include the Humane Society of the United States and In Defense of Animals. In Defense recently filed a lawsuit against the BLM in an attempt to block a planned round-up of several thousand horses from the Calico Mountains, Nevada slated to take place in early December. The lawsuit has resulted in a court-ordered delay to December 28. In Defense said that the round-up would be done with helicopters. It is not known when this particular case will be heard.
According to In Defense of Animals, the Wild Horses and Burros Act "... designated America's wild horses and burros as "living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West," specifying they "shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death … [and that] to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of public lands.”
Wild mustangs are feral horses. Thought to have originated in North America, the ancestor of the horse became extinct and was brought back to North America first by the Spaniards then later by other settlers, changing life for Aboriginals. Horses that escaped or accidentally released formed herds, subsequently facing death from ranchers who saw the herds as competitors for scarce water resources. Once the horses were protected by law in 1971, the Bureau of Land Management, charged with protecting the horses, began to find ways to remove and dispose of the wild horses, claiming such actions were needed to prevent the horses from starving to death because of their burgeoning population. In 2001, the BLM said it was removing 8,000 - 10,000 horses a year from the wild.
A hearing was held yesterday in Sparks, Nevada, allowing opponents an opportunity to state their case. A vote on the proposal put forward by the Bureau of Land Management is pending, but it is anticipated that a decision will be made within the next year.
More about Wild horses, Cheryl crow, Bureau land management
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