Animal Protection Groups File Suit over Bureau of Land Management’s Plan to Manage Wild Horses and Burros to Extinction

The Fund for Animals, Animal

Legal Defense Fund, and several individuals recently filed a lawsuit

against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for failing to

prepare an environmental study of its strategy to remove

one half of all wild horses and burros from public lands by

2005. Under the guise of restoring threatened watersheds,

BLM plans to drastically reduce the wild horse and burro

populations to a mere 27,000 and 2,700 respectively.

A 1990 General Accounting Office report concluded “wild

horses are vastly outnumbered on federal rangelands by

domestic livestock. Even substantial reductions in wild horse

populations will, therefore, not substantially reduce forage

consumption.” In addition, despite the Wild Free-Roaming

Horse and Burro Act’s mandate to manage horses and burros

as “self-sustaining populations of healthy animals,” BLM has

established population targets for many herd areas that are

significantly below the minimum needed to maintain the

long-term genetic viability of the animals.

According to Andrea Lococo, Rocky Mountain Coordinator of

The Fund for Animals, “Wild horses and burros are

convenient scapegoats for habitat degradation. BLM’s

attempt to dramatically reduce wild horse and burro numbers

insults the public’s intelligence and clearly demonstrates

that ranching politics are, as usual, driving the

decision-making process. BLM and the ranching industry will

not be satisfied until these magnificent animals are managed

into extinction.”

Added Howard Crystal, attorney for the plaintiffs, “BLM’s

strategy for massive removals of wild horses and burros from

public lands is a paradigmatic example of what Congress had

in mind when it enacted the National Environmental Policy

Act. It is the impacts of precisely this kind of action which

must be considered in an Environmental Impact Statement,

so the agency makes an informed decision which considers

all the impacts of, and alternatives to, its action.”

During Fiscal Year 2001, BLM received an increase of $9.6

million to begin the removals and intends to request similar

funding for the next several years.

The wild horse and burro program has been fraught with

abuses since its inception. Last week, The Fund for Animals

filed suit against BLM for its failure to release specific

records pertaining to wild horses being sold for slaughter

over the past two years.

A copy of the complaint is available by contacting The

Fund for Animals.

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