Over 7,700 Citizens Protest Feds’ Las Vegas-Area Wild Horse & Burro Roundup Plan

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Las Vegas, NV (July 15, 2013) . . . Over 7,700 citizens have joined the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), a national coalition, in urging the U.S. Forest Service to oppose a plan that could result in the removal of over 900 wild horses and burros from the Spring Mountain Complex, a nearly 800,000-acre public land area in southern Nevada.

At issue are the wild horses and burros that live in the Red Rock, Spring Mountain/ Wheeler Pass and Johnnie management areas, which are overseen jointly by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Yesterday was the  deadline for  public comments on a management plan that would reduce the number of wild horses and burros down to just 77-127 horses and 103-192 burros for the entire 784,325-acre complex. At the maximum levels, this equates to just one horse or burro per 2,459 acres.

In comments submitted yesterday, AWHPC and over 7,700 citizens urged the Forest Service to instead support a plan by the local Spring Mountain Alliance to humanely manage these horses and burros through range stewardship and PZP fertility control, while promoting their ecotourism potential.

“The National Academy of Sciences last month concluded that the federal government’s approach to wild horse management was expensive, unproductive and in need of immediate reform, yet the Forest Service’s plan for the Spring Mountain Complex perpetuates more of the same,” said Suzanne Roy, AWHPC director. “Instead of cruelly capturing and removing hundreds of wild horses and burros from their homes on our public lands, the Forest Service must work with the community to protect these treasured animals by managing them humanely on the range.”

 “These are the Las Vegas area’s last remaining wild horses and burros, and visitors from all over the world will love seeing them exhibiting distinctly wild behaviors so close to the Strip,” said Las Vegas resident Arlene Gawne, a co-founder of the Spring Mountain Alliance and a wildlife photographer with extensive ecotourism experience in Africa. “The plan to drastically reduce their population numbers will destroy the ecotourism potential of these herds. We are asking the Forest Service and BLM to work with us on a reasonable plan to steward these herds, protect their rangeland, and share the beauty and majesty of America’s wild horses and burros with visitors from all over the world.”

Specifically, the Alliance is proposing, in a limited portion of the Spring Mountain Complex, to dart all mares and jennies with PZP fertility control. (Mares and jennies in the area will be allowed to have one foal to maintain genetic diversity.) The Alliance also hopes to work with the federal agencies to selectively remove only the most adoptable 2-4-year old animals by humane bait capture and aggressively promote local adoption to avoid long-term holding costs. According to the Alliance, the relatively compact “Experimental Management Area” close to Las Vegas is an ideal place to conduct trials of innovative, scientific methods for improving population estimates and assessing range management practices in order to maintain genetically diverse, healthy populations and accurately estimate the productivity of the range as recommended in the National Academy of Sciences 2013 report, Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: a Way Forward (ISBN 978-0-309-26494-5).

As currently proposed, the Forest Service plan would add hundreds more horses to government-holding facilities that are at capacity with 50,000 wild horses and burros stockpiled in captivity. The roundup would take place as the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has called for an “immediate” change to the government’s “business as usual” practices. In a report released last month, the NAS determined that the government’s policy of keeping wild horse and burro populations at unnaturally low levels and conducting roundups to remove large numbers of animals every 3-4 years increases reproductive rates and, as a result, increases the number of horses processed through holding facilities. The NAS called on the government to “immediately” change its approach. . If comprehensive PZP darting had been done after the 2007 Spring Mountain roundup and population growth controlled, another massive removal in 2014 would not have been required.

In the last four years, the federal government has rounded up and removed over 35,000 wild horses from their homes on the range on Western public lands. Only a third of these horses have been adopted. Most captured horses are warehoused in holding facilities. Currently, there are more wild horses in government holding facilities (50,000) than are left free on the range (32,000).

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 50 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come.

The  Spring Mountain Alliance is a non-profit organization dedicated to on-range, volunteer management of stable family bands of wild horses and healthy burros in the Spring Mountains, and to providing opportunities for American and overseas tourists to view Southern Nevada’s last free-roaming wild horses and burros in our iconic Western landscapes.