RENO - Wild horse advocates are criticizing federal land managers' plans to begin a major mustang roundup in Nevada on private land, saying it's a deliberate attempt to prevent them from monitoring it.
Activists on Saturday said the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's plans run contrary to the agency's pledge to make such gathers transparent and to allow advocates to monitor them.
The two-month roundup set to start Monday in the Calico Mountains Complex is one of the most contentious in U.S. history and one of the largest in Nevada in recent years.
A federal judge on Wednesday denied a request to block the roundup, saying opponents failed to demonstrate that removal of the 2,500 or so horses would violate federal law.
"To start this immense roundup ... on private land where members of the public are forbidden to attend is a brilliant, insidious move on the part of the BLM to hide the suffering and death that they are about to inflict on our mustangs," said activist Eylse Gardner of Novato, Calif.
BLM spokeswoman Heather Emmons said the roundup will begin on private land in the Black Rock Range East in northwestern Nevada because it offers the best access to the animals.
She said it'll be staged on private land for the first week or two before moving to public land where activists will be allowed to monitor the activity. The land owner asked that the public not be allowed on the property, she added.
"We're not hiding anything," Emmons said. "From our standpoint, we had no other options. We know where the horses are and it's the only access we have to get to them."
BLM officials plan to place the 2,500 horses for adoption or send them to long-term holding facilities in the Midwest.
They have said the population in the five Calico herd management areas is three times what the range can handle, and the roundup is needed to protect the horses, native wildlife and the range itself.