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BLM responds to concerns over mustang roundups

Published: 2/10/2010
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NickerNews' Maddy Gray has appealed to Maine senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, for help in changing the Bureau of Land Management's poor policy around America's wild mustangs and burros.
In the following letter, BLM Director Robert Abbey replies to Sen. Collins.

[Click here to read letter from Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar]
[Click here to go to links page and more about the mustang issue]

Dear Senator Collins:

Thank you for your October 7, 2009, letter on behalf of your constituent Ms. Maddy Gray expressing concern about the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) gather at the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range. I share your interest in the welfare of America’s wild horses, and I appreciate the opportunity to provide you with accurate information about the BLM’s efforts to protect these iconic animals.

The BLM manages roughly 256 million acres of public land located primarily in the Western States. The Wild Horse and Burro program is one of many that BLM administers to fulfill its broad multiple-use mandate to manged the nation’s public lands for a variety of resources and uses. In 1971, Congress approved the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act requiring the BLM to manage wild horse and burro herds in a manner that achieves and maintains a “thriving natural ecological balance” among all uses of the public lands. Achieving and maintaining that balance requires the BLM to protect the rangeland from deterioration associated with overpopulation. If herd populations exceed the capacity of the land to sustain them, not only will native plants, wildlife, and other public land uses be threatened, but the wild horse and burros will be at rist of disease and starvation.
When an overpopulation of wild horses and burros exists on public lands, the 1971 Act directs the BLM to gather excess animals and offer them to the general public for adoption (or sale). The BLM does not sell any wild horses or burros to slaughterhouses or to “killer buyers.” Any unadopted animals are cared for in short-term corrals or long-term pastures.

Another of the BLM’s key responsibilities under the 1971 Act is to determine the “appropriate management level” of wild horses and burros that each Herd Management Area can support. Earlier this year,the BLM completed a Herd Management Area Plan for the Pryor Mountain Range  that increased the appropriate management level from 85 to 120 animals. The plan also calls for water development and vegetation treatments to enhance wild horse habitat.
Even with these planned improvements, the Range’s wild horse numbers exceeded the land’s capacity to support them. During recent gather operations, 57 horses were removed from the Range in order to bring the herd population to 125 and meet the 1971 Act’s requirement to preserve and maintain a thriving natural ecological balance. Half of the animals removed were gathers from U.S. Forest Service lands outside the Range boundaries. Good homes were found for all 57 animals; 52 of the horses were placed with qualified adopters and five were sold to wild horse advocates.

Along with removal operations, the gather provided an opportunity to adjust sex and age ratios to levels that promote genetic conservation. A fertility control plan for mares was implemented in an effort to slow herd growth rates so that fewer horses will need to be removed in the future. We are hopeful that managing wild horse numbers at lower levels, along with the development of new water sources, will allow rangeland conditions to improve and eventually allow for greater numbers of horses on the Pryor Range. We plan to reevaluate the appropriate management level in five years.

I would also like to let you know about a new initiative that I believe will better help the BLM protect and manage our wild horse and burro herds. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently outlined a new approach to the challenges faced by the Wild Horse and Burro program in a letter to U.S. Majority Leader Harry Reid. Additional information about the initiative can be found on your website:

The BLM is committed to managing for a healthy Pryor Mountain wild horse herd for future generations to enjoy. We appreciate your interest in the program.

If you have further questions, please contact Jenna Whitlock with the Wild Horse and Burro program at 202-912-7262.

Robert V. Abbey

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