ELKO - The Nevada Cattlemen's Association backs the idea but animal welfare activists are urging President Bush to veto legislation allowing the Bureau of Land Management to sell unwanted wild horses for fear they will be slaughtered.
A measure tucked into an appropriations bill Congress passed late last month permits BLM to sell any wild horses that are more than 10 years old or that no one wants to adopt.
"We're real excited about that," said Preston Wright of Deeth, president of the Nevada Cattlemen's Association.
"It's a major step forward on getting a handle on the horse population. Wild horses have been a problem for some ranchers," he told the Elko Daily Free Press.
"This will allow BLM to sell a backlog of older horses, which should allow them to go ahead with gathers," he said.
Wild horses and cattle compete for forage and for water when the horse herds are too large.
The measure states that an excess animal shall be made available for sale "without limitation, including through auction to the highest bidder, at local sale yards or other convenient livestock selling facilities ..."
The bill overrides the clause in federal law stating that no free-roaming horses or burros can be sold for processing into commercial products.
In Nevada, the BLM's goal is to reduce wild horse numbers from the current 19,000 to 14,500.