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Activists aim to halt horse castration plan

RENO — A coalition of conservationists and wild-horse activists is suing the government to block its implementation of a precedent-setting plan to castrate hundreds of wild stallions in eastern Nevada.

The lawsuit, filed by the Western Watersheds Project, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and the Cloud Foundation, follows the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s decision in July to back off a similar plan to castrate hundreds of wild stallions in Wyoming.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., challenges the BLM’s plans to remove roughly 1,800 wild horses from the Pancake Complex near Ely over the next six to 10 years and to castrate 200 wild stallions before releasing them back to the area as geldings.

The complaint contends the BLM’s “scientifically unsound, controversial, untested and radical approaches” to managing wild horses in the 855,000-acre complex violate federal law while the agency continues to authorize thousands of sheep and cattle to graze on public lands in the area.

“The BLM has violated the law by failing to analyze impacts of domestic livestock and wild horses,” said Jon Marvel, executive director of the Idaho-based Western Watershed Project. “I hope this case ends once and for all BLM’s illegal bias in favor of cattle and sheep over wild horses and all other native wildlife.”

The BLM in July backed off a similar plan to release hundreds of castrated wild stallions back to the range in Wyoming after the same plaintiffs challenged it in court.

BLM spokeswoman JoLynn Worley said the agency views the pilot project as another way to reduce growing horse herds that are damaging rangelands to the detriment of native wildlife.

“That’s one thing people always ask about, when they comment on this, whether we can try to do some birth control on stallions in addition to mares,” Worley said. “We want to see if this will be one more way to reduce the number of horses and slow down the population.”

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