Mustang roundups fuel deepening debate as drought grips West

/ In The News, News

Brothers Indigo and Turquoise on the Sand Wash Basin Herd Management Area in Colorado. Photo by Meg Frederick.

Statement from Return to Freedom: “We are in this tragic position because of the BLM’s failure to implement solutions that have been available for over 20 years,” said Neda DeMayo, president of Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation. “For nearly 50 years, these horses have had to suffer this management program and the Americans who love them suffer with them.” 

“This is even more tragic because other solutions exist now,” DeMayo continued. “The agency has resisted creating an infrastructure and a culture that could have made a sustainable and effective fertility control program possible. It has rounded up horses year after year while waiting for longer-acting vaccines instead of using the safe, proven and humane fertility control that’s available right now. These sensitive habitats are vulnerable to drought and, knowing this, a national land management agency tasked with the preservation and protection of our wild horses should have been prepared long ago and in a much better position today.”

Return to Freedom will continue to work with diverse stakeholders on the implementation of fertility control programs on the range, increased public-private partnerships and range restoration programs that benefit all wildlife.

TAKE ACTION: Please send a letter urging lawmakers to press BLM on the implementation of humane, proven and safe fertility control that’s readily available right now.

As published by The Associated Press

TOOELE, Utah (AP) — The sound of the helicopter propeller thundered across the horizon as it dipped down toward mustangs dotting the golden brown plain. The horses burst into a gallop at the machine’s approach, their high-pitched whinnies rising into the dry air.

That helicopter roundup in the mountains of western Utah removed hundreds of free-roaming wild horses, shortly before the Biden administration announced it would sharply increase the number of mustangs removed across the region. It’s an emergency step land managers say is essential to preserving the ecosystem and the horses as a megadrought worsened by climate change grips the region.

“What were seeing here in the West gives some insight into a new norm,” Terry Messmer, a professor at Utah State University who studies wild horse management.

The removals are adding fuel to longstanding conflicts with activists for the animals whose beauty and power make them an enduring emblem of the American West. They say the U.S. government is using the drought as an excuse to take out horses in favor of cattle grazing.

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