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
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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