WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said Wednesday that it is going forward with a contentious plan to round up about 2,500 wild horses in Nevada.
A spokeswoman for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said herds in the Calico Mountains Complex in northwestern Nevada are overpopulated and need to be reduced to protect the horses and the rangelands that support them.
“The current population in the five Calico herd management areas is three times what the range can handle, so this gather will ensure high-quality habitat for the wild horse and burros and other wildlife while protecting the public rangeland from overuse,” said spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff.
She called the dispute over the roundup “yet another clarion call to develop and implement a long-term solution to the challenges we face concerning wild horses and burros on our public lands.”
The Interior Department announcement came after a federal judge on Wednesday denied a request to block the roundup, saying opponents had failed to demonstrate that removal of the horses would violate federal law.
U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said the agency is obligated under a 1971 law to carefully manage wild horse herds to prevent overpopulation.
The roundup planned for Monday would be one of the largest in Nevada in recent years. Officials plan to use helicopters to force the horses into holding pens before placing them for adoption or sending them to long-term holding corrals in the Midwest.
The roundup is part of the land management agency’s overall strategy to remove more than 10,000 wild horses from public lands across the West
Wild horse advocates had sued to block the roundup, saying that use of the helicopters is inhumane because some of the animals are traumatized, injured or killed. Opponents also contend that the bureau is grossly inflating horse numbers to justify their removal from the range.