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Federal Land Agency Plans Nevada Wild Horse Roundup

November 29, 2002|From Associated Press

RENO — The Bureau of Land Management plans to round up more than 2,000 wild horses from the northern Nevada range to reduce herd sizes, a move a horse advocacy group calls misguided and unnecessary.

Beginning Sunday, BLM officials will round up 2,650 wild horses to keep the herds in check, preventing them from starving and destroying rangeland already damaged by overgrazing and drought.

Animals taken off the range will be screened and placed in the BLM's wild horse adoption program.

Trina Bellak, founder and president of the Potomac, Md.-based American Horse Defense Fund, questioned how many horses the adoption program can handle.

"After these roundups, where are they going?" Bellak asked. "We need to stop rounding up thousands and thousands of horses for which no home exists."

The first gather will remove about 870 horses from the Monte Cristo Herd Management Area west of Ely, which is jointly managed by the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service.

The BLM said the move is necessary to achieve the "thriving natural ecological balance" required by the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act.

About 1,100 wild horses roam the range, according to the BLM, which has set an appropriate level of 236 horses for the region.

Officials said three years of drought have placed added stress on the herd and the condition of the range, as well as wildlife and livestock.

Gene Kolkman, manager of the BLM's field office in Ely, said the numbers alone prompt the need for a roundup.

"When one adds drought conditions to the situation, it becomes imperative that we gather wild horses to prevent them from dying of thirst or starvation as well as destruction of the environment," he said

The second large-scale roundup is to begin Monday in the Owyhee Herd Management Area 90 miles northwest of Elko near the Nevada-Idaho line. The goal there is to remove about 985 horses, leaving about 230 on the 338,000-acre management area.

Similar efforts involving the removal of about 800 horses from the Jackson Mountains north of Winnemucca and Pershing County's Stillwater region also are pending, said BLM spokeswoman Maxine Shane in Reno.

Around the country, the BLM cares for about 16,000 captured wild horses -- 9,000 at long-term holding facilities and 7,000 at temporary adoption centers, said Shane, who agreed the supply of horses far outweighs the demand from those adopting them.

"We have been gathering more quickly than we've been able to adopt horses," she said. "Within three weeks we're going to gather nearly 3,000 animals. But you adopt those animals one at a time."

Of the 40,000 wild horses that roam the open range in Western states, about half are in Nevada, where about 6,300 horses were rounded up last year.

Bellak argued that instead of rounding them up, federal officials should make the horses a priority when making decisions about how to use public lands.

Federal land managers give too much weight to the interests of ranchers, she said.

"This is public land. It belongs to everyone," she said. "I don't know too many people who go hiking or on vacations to view cattle."

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