Group aims to reduce wild horse and burros population by 75%


Critics say an eco-friendly coalition is advocating for breeding and hunting interests to speed up the capture and containment of wild horses and Nevada burros.

“We believe the Coalition for Healthy Nevada Lands is a front organization for cattle ranchers and commercial trappers seeking to eradicate wild horses from public lands in Nevada,” said Suzanne Roy of the American Wild Horse Campaign.

Roy says that “the hyperfocus on wild horses is a calculated effort to make these iconic animals scapegoats for the environmental damage caused by the massive cattle grazing on public lands in Nevada. In fact, private livestock is allowed to graze 43 million of the 48 million acres of BLM land in Nevada. Wild horses and burros are restricted to Designated Herd Management Areas (HMAs) which only include 14 million hectares, which they share with the cattle.

Last week, the Nevada Wildlife Commission signed a letter Home Secretary Deb Haaland of the Coalition for Healthy Nevada Lands, Wildlife, and Free-Roaming Horses.

Commissioner David McNinch, who represents conservation interests on the wildlife commission, which is dominated by sportsmen and ranchers, called the group of supporters a “very unique coalition” which includes the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States.

The unlikely alliance is the result of climate change, says one participant.

“The biggest threat to our wild horses and donkeys and public lands right now is not the BLM, it is not livestock, ranching or mining interests. They are not animal advocates. It’s climate change and the new reality is setting in fast, ”Stephanie Boyles Griffin, chief scientist in the wildlife protection department of the Humane Society of the United States, Recount Reuters.

“I never see HSUS and ASPCA on the course, at a RAC (Regional Advisory Council) meeting, during a roundup or during a physical check on wild horses in real holding facilities,” says wild horse activist Linda Leigh, founder of Wild horse education.

The Coalition letter says the state has “nearly four times the number of horses and burros that the lands of Nevada can support and sustain.” We urgently ask for your help in reducing their population in Nevada to protect the health of the land, water, wildlife, and the horses and burros themselves.

The Coalition’s goal is to reduce the 42,994 wild horses and 4,087 burros that roam Nevada by about 75%.

A Joint Senate Resolution with similar goals passed away in the Nevada Legislature in 2021.

In contrast, Nevada has just under half a million cows, according to the USDA.

“These coalitions appear every few years and are made up of the same people as the last coalition,” says Leigh. “Each coalition has a trick that pushes more money to keep the current system working; blame the horse, remove the horse and ignore management planning to protect the horse and the land it stands on from private profit merchants.

They blame the horses, don’t they?

Ranchers, hunters and the BLM have long singled out wild horses and burros for devastating runs and compete with cattle and big game for scarce water and grass.

But the extent of damage to Nevada’s public lands by livestock and wildlife is largely a mystery as the BLM, responsible for assessing and addressing impacts, has examined less than half of the land allotted to ranchers in state, according to BLM data obtained through a public information request by Public employees for environmental responsibility.

According to the new PEER report, based on data from the BLM field office, the BLM granted 782 public range assignments to ranchers in Nevada, covering 43.2 million acres. Of that, he failed in a multi-year process to assess more than half – 481 allotments totaling 24.7 million acres.

PEER’s database shows satellite images overlaid on BLM’s plots, revealing the condition of the land, according to the organization. Of the more than 18 million acres of land assessed, only 3.5 million met BLM standards for soil condition, vegetation and the water.

“In its own view, BLM is a poor steward of our federal routes,” Kristen Stade, PEER’s advocacy director, said in a statement, adding that the government grazing fee of $ 1.35 per animal unit per month (AUM) is a fraction of comparable charges on private land. . “These ultra low fees appear to subsidize land abuse.”

An AUM is the amount of forage a 1000 pound cow and her unweaned calf will consume within a month.

The BLM, which falls under the new direction of Tracy Stone-Manning, has no respond to requests for comment.

PEER and a few other organizations oppose Pres. Joe Biden’s declaration to include grazed rangelands as a conserved area in his initiative 30×30, which calls for the conservation of 30 percent of the country’s land and water by 2030.

The BLM “has no idea of ​​the state of the majority of its pastures, including where the degradation is coming from”, Madeleine Carey, Southwest Conservation Officer for WildEarth Guardians, said via email. “If the BLM were to study the health of all of its rangelands, it would find that cattle grazing causes significant damage to plants, water quality, and wildlife, the very ones that should be protected under 30 × 30. .

Cows vs. horses

Some environmentalists argue that cattle, not horses and burros, are the main culprit behind degraded rangelands, but get a pass from the BLM because of the agency’s close ties to cattle ranchers.

The Coalition is “not interested in entering the cow-for-horse conversation because it is not an apples-to-apples comparison,” Rebekah Stetson, who leads the Coalition’s effort to control populations of horses and burros through roundups, containment, adoption and sale, the current said by email. “As ecosystems are complex, the solutions to heal them are also complex and do not have a single solution.

Stetson would not say what efforts, if any, the Coalition is making to mitigate the impacts of livestock and big game on the land.

With much of Nevada in extreme drought, “there has been little to no effort on the part of the BLM to reduce the number of cows on the range as a means of adapting to the drought, showing that the agency does not intend to adapt its range management to reflect the climatic realities of the soil, ”said Carey of WildEarth Guardians.

Animal activist Fred Voltz says the Coalition for Healthy Nevada Lands “has little to do with the humane treatment of wild horses and burros. Instead, coalition members seek to eliminate competition for food and water sources, so that the animals they target for recreational slaughter are sufficiently numerous and healthy for licensees. NDOW.

Stetson did not respond to allegations from critics or inquiries about Coalition funding.

“Nevada is the largest ‘owner’ of wild horses and donkeys in the wild,” the Coalition literature states.

“Today, the excessive numbers of wild horses and burros on Nevada’s courses are degrading the health of our ecosystems and endangering many species of our native fauna,” reads the Coalition’s letter to Haaland.

However, native wildlife largely thrives in Nevada, says Dr. Don Molde, a longtime wildlife activist in the state.

The number of elk has increased from 2,000 in 1990 to 13,000 in 2020, after peaking at 18,500 in 2015, USDA data shows

“Nevada has too many momentum,” Molde says.

Bighorn sheep numbered less than 4,500 in 1990. Today there are over 11,000 in Nevada.

The antelope population has exploded from 12,500 in 1986 to a current average of 29,000 over 10 years.

However, the mule deer fell from 180,000 in 1986 to a ten-year average of 100,000.

The sage grouse, sometimes considered an endangered species, is threatened by wild horses as well as livestock, which attract predators to where they graze, experts say.

According to a 2016 to study by the US Geological Survey, “crows are almost fifty percent more likely to inhabit areas in sagebrush landscapes if cattle are present, and prefer to choose sites near larger breeding grounds of mugwort. greater sage grouse “.

Adoption and other options

Since the program’s inception 40 years ago, the BLM has organized the adoption of 250,000 wild horses and burros, according to its website.

Over the past nine years, adoptions have averaged 2,586 per year nationwide.

Additionally, since 2005, the BLM has sold 5,900 horses and burros under a 2004 law that states that any animal at least ten years old that has been forwarded for adoption at least three times is eligible for sale. without limitation ”to any willing purchaser.

“This has been and remains the policy of the BLM, despite the unlimited selling power” granted in 2005, “NOT to sell or send wild horses or burros to slaughterhouses or to “kill buyers”, “the agency’s website says.

Captured and surrounded

Some 50,000 captured horses currently languish in government corrals and pastures, a heart-wrenching reality for countless Americans who revere the wild horse as a symbol of the free-spirited West.

Voltz, in a public comment opposing the Wildlife Commission approval of the Coalition’s request inside, noted that horses were injured and killed “while running for their lives in fear” while they are pursued by helicopters during the roundups.

“The imprisoned horses are sent to slaughter in another jurisdiction,” he said, adding
“Humane fertility control significantly increased from current levels would be a much more productive and less expensive process than underperforming helicopter roundups. ”

No more adoption gimmicks to land wild horses in the slaughter pipeline, give licensees money to trap, big funding for more feedlots, that’s not what you have to, ”says Leigh. “BLM needs to be pushed to protect the horse’s range, just like the sage grouse. “


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