US horse welfare group slams range management

February 19, 2009

A group dedicated to the welfare of United States wild horses has slammed the management of wild horses in Nevada.

"Today, the Cattlemen's Association has a stranglehold on the rangelands for a mere $US1.35 per animal unit, which is around 25 to 30 acres per animal," said Ray Field, executive director of the Wild Horse Foundation.

"Wild horses can no longer roam the wild and free land that once was the wild west and rightfully their territory," he said.

"Big business has run the wild horses into the ground where no longer you can see them unless you're in a private facility like the Wild Horse Foundation."

The group was to this week receive what it said could be the last wild horses removed the Virginia Range in Nevada.

The horses are quickly vanishing off the Nevada horizon with the help of agriculture officials, he said.

More than 30,000 wild horses and burros are now held in containment facilities, roughly equivalent to the number still estimated to roam the western rangelands.

The number of captive horses is threatening to overwhelm the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) budget and there has been serious discussion about euthanizing animals considered unadoptable, or easing sale limitations which would open the door to slaughter buyers.

Severty-two per cent all wild horses live in Nevada.

Field was critical of the threat now posed to the wild horses and said horses had historically been blamed unfairly for diminishing vegetation and had "suffered tremendously as a result".

Cattlemen illegally grazing on federal lands without permits were more likely responsible.

"Under the current plan, the state of Nevada and BLM have totally disregarded the obligations of the law in its Wild Horse and Burro Act to protect the wild horses.

"Only the wild horses are counted on these range lands; not elk, caribou, sheep, cattle or any other natural grazer," he said.