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USA TODAY: Activists decry wild-horse roundups

By William M. Welch, USA TODAY           (Here’s your national coverage – R.T.)

The Voice of the Public is Ignored by the BLM

Federal officials have begun rounding up at least 2,500 wild horses from Nevada rangeland, triggering protests from animal advocates who say the trapping endangers these symbols of the American West and condemns them to lives in captivity.

The protesters are organizing demonstrations around the country Wednesday to pressure the Obama administration to impose a moratorium on roundups by the Bureau of Land Management. They want to halt the practice of sending captured horses to Midwestern pastures and holding pens, where some are adopted but most remain for the rest of their lives.

“We are very, very disappointed this is happening under the Obama administration,” said Suzanne Roy, program director at In Defense of Animals, a group that has sued in federal court to halt the roundups. “This will devastate the herd and have a devastating impact on the horses left behind.”

MORE: Plan to round up wild horses draws opposition

AT ISSUE: Wild horse debate gallops on

The BLM contends the roundups are necessary because there are more wild horses than Western lands can support. Allowing the herds to grow unchecked will lead to starvation and suffering by the horses while destroying grazing land used by cattle ranchers, said Tom Gorey, spokesman for the BLM in Washington.

“Herd sizes double about every four years,” Gorey said. “To put a moratorium on gathers (roundups) would be untenable.”

BLM contractor's chopper running Pryor Mountain horses into trap - Photo by Terry Fitch

Helicopter wrangling

The BLM and contracted horse wranglers used two helicopters Monday as they began trapping wild horses that have roamed on more than 850 square miles of rangeland in northwestern Nevada.

Heather Emmons, spokeswoman for the BLM in Nevada, said 20 or more horses were captured by midday and the roundup would continue for as long as two months, until at least 2,500 horses are taken off the range.

The helicopters skim the ground to chase horses into pens, where they are trapped and trucked to holding facilities at Fallon, Nev., for evaluation, veterinary treatment and branding, Emmons said. She said the agency intends to leave 800 to 900 horses from this herd on the range.

Older horses will be sent to permanent holding facilities in the Midwest while younger ones go to short-term facilities and will be put up for adoption. Rates of adoption have been falling, and Gorey said the agency expects about 3,500 horses to be adopted in the next year.

More than 34,000 wild horses and burros are kept by the federal government in corrals and pastures, primarily in Oklahoma and Kansas. The government estimates that 33,000 wild horses roam on BLM-managed rangelands in 10 Western states, half or more of them in Nevada.

About 30 protesters gathered Sunday at a conservation area near Las Vegas, demonstrating against the roundup. In Defense of Animals said it was organizing a demonstration Wednesday outside the San Francisco office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in the hope of spurring political support for their call to halt the roundups. Other protests were planned in Chicago, Boulder, Colo., and elsewhere, said Makendra Silverman, associate director of the Cloud Foundation, a Colorado-based group that tries to protect mustangs.

‘Situation is unpatriotic’

The fight over taking wild horses off federal land has intensified in the past two years since the BLM under the Bush administration proposed, then backed away from, a plan to euthanize unadoptable wild horses in captivity.

Under the Obama administration, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar proposed buying land to create national preserves and sanctuaries in the East and Midwest as permanent homes for mustangs. Horse advocates have opposed Salazar’s plan as a dressed-up version of the status quo combined with aggressive roundups they say would threaten the future of wild horse herds.

“The situation is unpatriotic,” said Deanne Stillman, author of Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West. “What represents freedom more than wild horses? We are a country born in hoof sparks. … I do think most Americans are not happy about this stripping away of our heritage.”

Celebrities including singers Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow and former Playboy models Shane and Sia Barbi have tried to call attention to the issue.

“We must act now before the BLM has managed these magnificent animals into extinction,” Nelson said.

Advocates say that trapping in winter threatens the horses’ health because of cold temperatures and rugged terrain, and that the actions separate foals from mothers.

Emmons of the BLM said winter trapping is better because the animals are at lower elevations and can be captured in shorter distances with less stress.

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10 replies »

  1. Living in the Midwest, I can not understand how they are going to put wild horses on grass pastures. Who is going to trim their hooves every 6-8 weeks? Any horse person knows hooves grow quickly on green pasture. For that matter who is trimming hooves while they are in holding now?

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  2. LEAVE THE WILD HORSES IN THE WILD! PERIOD. THE BLM IS BREAKING THE LAW. WILD HORSES’ HOOVES ARE WORN BY TERAIN AND MOVEMENT.

    THE TIME HAS PASSED FOR CATTLE BARONS TO GRAZE THEIR VAST HERDS ON FEDERAL LANDS. THE GREED BASED ACTIONS OF SALAZAR AND HIS FELLOW CATTLEMEN WILL DESTORY THE LAST OF THE WILD HORSES.

    AMERICANS: MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD OR WE WILL LOSE A NATIONAL TRESURE: THE WILD HORSES OF THE WEST. INSIST THAT THE GOVERNMENT ABIDE BY THE LAW TO PROTECT WILD HERDS FROM SUCH PEOPLE.

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    • My fear the horses will not or are not in holding long enough to need their hooves trimmed. Is it impossible to make the government follow the law when the government is the one breaking it?

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    • Kas and Bonnie, Ginger Kathrens has reported on the imprisoned wild horses hoof and teeth care in one of the radio spots. If you have not already, listen to them all. But I think this was on the latest Howling Ridge one.

      I don’t know the contraption myself or what it is called, but it is the same used for cattle, somehow holds them on their sides, I suppose makes the same noise as the chutes when it clamps down on them. Just more horrific abuse to these poor creatures!

      Maybe someone else will reply with a better answer for you.

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    • You put wild horses on green pasture after living as they have on forage in the wild you get founder. It happens here to domestice horses every spring. I don’t see how this can be avoided. Leave them alone.

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  3. Roxy – I will listen to the broadcast. More and more horrors for the wild hores is the order of the day. I would not stand in Salazar’s shoes, for their will be a price to be paid. As for the BLM – they’re just thug ranchers.

    A good friend wrote the following. Please feel free to forward.

    This cruel and inhumane treatment of horses by the Bureau of Land Management has been ongoing while horses are injured, killed and sold to slaughter, all from the leaders of BLM apparently pandering to cattle owners who have been allowed to take over the acreage while BLM ignores the 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act in their plan to get rid of virtually all the wild herds. Yesterday the BLM refused entry of anyone and in secret continued their barbaric roundup using helicopters running horses down while they and their colts are injured and die. BLM ignored a Judge’s statements that these roundups should cease, and in my opinion there is something very evil about what BLM does. The slaughter of American horses by this agency is a blight on this country which has made Americans despise a government that allows this to happen.

    Madeline Pickens offered adequate acres to house these horses, but BLM blocked this and refused to cooperate. There was never a problem to begin with for these horses. This cruel, uncivilized treatment of our horses reeks of what appears to be corruption and collusion with ranchers. Contrived lies about there not being room for the horses is fabricated to justify the barbaric cruelty of the Bureau of Land Management and those involved. Regarding Salazar, appointed by this administration, is he a rancher with an agenda involving his and his family’s possible personal interest in this removal of horses and slaughter of them?

    Grazing livestock do more damage than horses, but BLM has allotted thousands of acres to ranchers while it is documented that the brutal removal of horses perpetrated by BLM causes horses and foals to die and to get broken legs. By law these horses cannot be sent to slaughter, so why are they? Defense of Animals, sued to try to prevent the roundup, contending that the mustangs are vital to the ecosystem. A federal judge admonished BLM that they should stop moving these horses, but he stopped short of placing an injunction, unfortunately. Many have written President Obama, who appointed Salazar, and to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), but our government has become unreliable, although a spokesman for Reid said Monday that the senator was disappointed with the BLM’s handling of the horses. Thousands wrote BLM outraged letters which were ignored by BLM.

    In 1971, Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, granting federal protection to wild horses and burros as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.” The horses were introduced to North America by the Spanish conquistadors. Some of today’s wild mustangs are descendants of escaped Spanish horses. The horses have been injured, killed and sent to slaughter, and burros have been shot.

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