Tuscarora, NV (IDA) – Yesterday, In Defense of Animals (IDA), an international animal protection and rescue organization, called for a summer moratorium of all roundups and is blasting the Department of Interior which, despite a federal lawsuit and legal appeal, began a controversial roundup of wild horses in Northeastern Nevada on July 10 which has resulted in seven (7) fatalities and numerous injuries in just the first day of the roundup. BLM has indicated that 228 wild horses were captured. These horses were stampeded with the use of a helicopter over eight miles in the deadly desert summer heat. The majority of deaths are dehydration-related.
“That the BLM refused to even postpone this roundup knowing full well the life-threatening nature of conducting them during the hot summer months in desert country is yet another example of this agency’s unwillingness to change,” said Todd Tucci, Senior Staff Attorney at Advocates for the West, a leading public interest environmental law firm. “Had the BLM done the on-the-range management as Congress intended they would have known the conditions of the horses and the range and would have averted this unnecessary tragedy deliberately inflicted by the BLM. The Interior Department must halt all summer roundups before other horses are subjected to similar inhumane treatment and conditions.”
Because of these preventable deaths, the BLM has temporarily suspended this ill-fated roundup. It is not known when BLM will resume it.
The Owyhee roundup which began only ten days after the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) identified “peak foaling season” (which ends on June 30th) unnecessarily subjects newly-born foals and pregnant mares to life-threatening conditions including the helicopter-created chase, or stampede, of horses for miles over rugged terrain in desert summer temperatures. Nevadan Laura Leigh, a artist and published author, filed a lawsuit to stop the Owyhee Complex roundup in federal court on July 9. The lawsuit outlines the Interior Departments’ lack of legal basis for the roundup and the Department’s lack of public access to view and document the roundup. On July 8, IDA and ecologist Craig Downer, represented by Advocates For the West, a leading conservation group, filed an Appeal and Petition to Stay with the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) regarding the same Owyhee Complex roundup. The Appeal and Petition to Stay further challenges the agency’s determination that the Owyhee Complex horses are “excess” and therefore must be removed, and cited the summer heat and the danger to newborn foals and pregnant mares because of the roundup’s occurring only ten days after peak foaling season had ended. The Appeal and Petition to Stay seeks to postpone the roundup until at least after August 15.
The BLM reports that 228 horses were rounded up on July 10. BLM indiscriminately rounds up wild horses without any regard to age, condition or health — a direct violation of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. This July 10 roundup would include young foals, some of whom may have been born within the last week or so, creating inhumane conditions which would expose the vulnerable youngsters to life-threatening health problems and possibly death. BLM itself acknowledges that “summer gathers pose increased risk of heat stress” and “death can result.” In addition, running young foals can cause a multitude of physical health problems including hoof, skeletal and development issues.
The BLM’s Tuscarora Field Office, despite receiving written opposition from thousands of Americans, decided to move forward with the roundup and removal of approximately 1,200 wild horses from the Owyhee Complex – which includes three herd management areas comprised of 482,000 acres north of Elko in northeastern Nevada. The planned roundup only leaves behind only 337 wild horses on the 753-square-mile area. While severely restricting the number of horses on the Owyhee Complex, the BLM allows private ranchers to graze thousands of cattle in this same area (through livestock allocations).
The BLM plans to roundup and remove approximately 6,000 wild horses in the next four months. Currently there are more wild horses (36,000) in government holding facilities than free on the range (33,000). Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has repeatedly stated the wild horse and burro program is not sustainable given that tens of millions of tax dollars are spent annually on the warehousing of wild horses in government facilities – yet the Secretary continues the same broken cycle of roundup-removal and stockpiling of wild horses contributing to the programs problems. In Defense of Animals continues to work with ecologists, wild horse experts and others to push for on-the-range management of the wild horses and burros as a means to maintain healthy herds and healthy range lands.
Wild horses comprise a small fraction of grazing animals on public lands, where they are outnumbered by livestock nearly 50 to 1. The BLM has recently increased cattle grazing allotments in areas where wild horses are being removed. Currently the BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public lands of which cattle grazing is allowed on 160 million acres; wild horses are only allowed on 26.6 million acres this land, which must be shared with cattle. The Obama Administration plans to remove nearly 12,000 wild horses and burros from public lands by October 2010. There are currently more than 36,000 wild horses warehoused in government holding facilities and only 33,000 wild horses free on the range.
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