Lawsuit Would Block Nevada Mustang Gathers

A group of wild horse advocates have asked the U.S. District Court in Nevada to stop a planned Bureau of Land Management (BLM) mustang gather on grounds that the agency's assessment of the animals' environmental impact is flawed.

On July 7 the BLM is slated to begin gathering more than 1,700 animals collectively from the Triple B, Maverick-Medicine, and Antelope Valley Herd Management Areas (HMAs) in Nevada and the Cherry Springs Wild Horse Territory in Nevada. The ranges should have a combined herd population of between 472 and 889 animals, according to the agency.

Gathered mares released back to the range will receive the contraceptive porcine zona pellucida (PZP) prior to being returned to the HMAs or territory. Sex ratios of gathered animals returned to the HMAs could be adjusted to achieve an approximately 60% male to 40% female ratio.

In an agency press release BLM Spokesman Chris Hanefeld said the gather is necessary to reduce herd populations to appropriate management levels for each HMA.

"The gather, removal, and fertility control are intended to slow wild horse population growth, maintain population size within the appropriate management levels necessary to achieve a thriving natural ecological balance on the public lands, and to extend the time before another gather to remove excess wild horses would be needed," Hanefeld said.

On June 29 the Cloud Foundation, a Colorado-based wild horse advocacy group, along with ecologist Craig Downer and Lorna Moffat, filed a complaint claiming that the BLM failed to demonstrate that the animals threaten the thriving natural ecological balance of the ranges or that the mustangs are responsible for range areas that might exhibit some use-related impact.

The complaint asks the court to halt the gather until or unless the BLM fully complies with National Environmental Policy requirements to consider all reasonable alternatives to removing the animals to reduce use impact on the ranges. The complaint also criticizes PZP treatments and the male-to-female herd population ratio.

"The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act does not allow the BLM to employ this intensive management action without determining that such an action is absolutely necessary to maintain the thriving natural ecological balance of the range," alleged attorney Rachel Fazio, who is representing the plaintiffs in the action.

No one from the BLM was available to comment on the lawsuit.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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