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Wild horse advocates consider legal options

RENO — Wild horse advocates say they have no recourse but the courts after federal land managers rejected their request for an immediate moratorium on roundups.

The Bureau of Land Management plans to remove more than 30,000 horses from Western rangelands over the next three years to deal with soaring numbers of the animals and costs to manage them.

The Equine Welfare Alliance, which represents more than 60 organizations, is considering its legal options after the BLM rejected its request to halt the roundups, said John Holland, its president.

The Chicago-based coalition opposes Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s proposal to move thousands of wild horses to preserves in the Midwest and East to protect horse herds and the rangelands that support them. Salazar has said his plan unveiled last month would avoid the slaughter of some of the 69,000 wild horses and burros under federal control to halt the rising costs of maintaining them.

“The BLM continues to say wild horses are overrunning the range, but they have no scientific evidence,” Holland said.

BLM spokesman Tom Gorey said his agency thinks there’s scientific evidence to justify the removal of 11,500 of the animals from the range over each of the next three years. The agency has set a target “appropriate management level” of 26,600 of the animals in the wild, about 10,000 below the current level. An additional 32,000 of them are cared for in government-funded corrals and pastures.

“We’re confident that our scientific analysis stands up to scrutiny,” Gorey said. “The herd sizes double every four years, so it’s untenable to suggest we do a moratorium.”

The Equine Welfare Alliance has questioned the BLM’s horse numbers and said there was no evidence justifying removal of the romantic symbols of the American West. Nevada is home to about half of the horses in the wild.

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