The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is on a collision course with reality over its management of wild horses, a Colorado-based charity says.
The Cloud Foundation was commenting after budget information revealed the bureau planned on spending $US6 million on contracts for helicopter roundups in 2014 and $US1.5 million on studies into contraceptive and sterilization options.
“The BLM is breaking their promise to Congress and to the American public,” foundation executive director Ginger Kathrens said.
“The case can be made that this is their solution to rid the range of our wild horses. They have made a mockery of the Wild Horse and Burro Act, an act designed to preserve, not destroy wild horse families.“
The foundation advocates for economical, sustainable methods for managing wild horses and burros on the range, many of which were recommended in the June 2013, National Academy of Science report, titled Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: A Way Forward.
The report said that current bureau management practices – helicopter roundups and removals of horses from the range – were facilitating high rates of population growth.
Kathrens said it appeared the bureau intended to continue helicopter roundups and removals of wild horses and burros when long- and short-term holding corrals were filled beyond capacity.
The foundation voiced its fears that the bureau might be on a path toward castrating stallions and spaying mares, creating what it called dead-end herds, which will ultimately die out.
“This is my fear,” Kathrens says. “It is a fact that there are few mustangs left in the wild. The majority of our wild herds are not large enough to be considered genetically viable. The charge of overpopulation is a joke aimed at hoodwinking the media and the public.
“Rather than spend $US1.5 million for further studies, the BLM needs to use the tools it has.
“Effective use of the proven and reversible fertility vaccine PZP will curtail population growth in an economical, sustainable way with no need for helicopter roundups.
“On-the-range management is being practiced in the Pryor Mountains of Montana, the McCullough Peaks of Wyoming, the Little Book Cliffs of Colorado, and it is being considered for the Onaqui wild horse herd in Utah,” said Kathrens.
“PZP has successfully controlled population in the Assateague National Seashore where wild horses have been darted with the drug for decades. Instead, the BLM treated only 332 mares of the 4702 wild horses rounded up in 2013.”
It is understood the BLM received 14 study proposals seeking funding from the $US1.5 million pool, specifically aimed at developing or refining techniques and protocols for either contraceptive use, spaying of mares, or gelding of stallions in the wild.
The final funding decisions are expected to be made by March 1.