Another government roundup of wild horses began today, this time in northwestern Colorado, despite a lawsuit by animal advocates to try to stop it.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management was to herd 140 horses into corrals using helicopters. The agency hopes to corral the horses in an effort to protect cattle grazing land it says is threatened by horse overpopulation. A BLM spokesman said the agency delayed round up a group of 60 horses in North Piceance while awaiting a decision on the injunction.
Groups including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals filed a lawsuit charging the federal government with systematically driving the wild horses to extinction.
“They have continued to increase their efforts to remove these horses from public land legally designated for their use despite intense public outcry," said Matt Bershadker, senior vice president of Anti-Cruelty for the ASPCA. "The ASPCA decided to take legal action against the BLM’s inhumane and fiscally irresponsible policies before a national treasure is completely eradicated.”
The ASPCA alleges that the BLM is violating the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, which was passed to protect wild horses and burros from capture and preserve the land used by them.
More than 19 million acres originally designated for their use have slowly been whittled away for cattle grazing, making them both the victim and target for removal. The use of helicopters to run the terrified horses over miles of scorching desert has resulted in serious injuries and several horse deaths throughout the summer, as well as one-half or more of the wild horse population languishing in long-term holding pens. The ASPCA is calling for an immediate reintroduction of wild horses onto federal lands previously designated for their use, as well as greater transparency in the benefits cattlemen have derived from BLM policies.
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has been authorized by the BLM to determine accurate population sizes and appropriate herd management levels, and the ASPCA is seeking a complete moratorium on all future roundups until NAS publishes their findings.
Meanwhile, the wife of Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens is hoping to create a permanent home on the range for thousands of mustangs. Madeleine Pickens says she has bought a 14,000 acre ranch in eastern Nevada that she plans to dedicate as a sanctuary for wild horses. The BLM is reviewing the pilot program to move as many one thousand horses already in government-funded facilities to the preserve.