The American Wild Horse Campaign and photographer Kimerlee Curyl on Tuesday filed suit in U.S. District Court in Nevada challenging a 10-year plan by the Bureau of Land Management to round up and remove nearly 10,000 federally-protected wild horses from the Antelope and Triple B Herd Management Area (HMA) complexes in southeastern Nevada, and to manage wild horses that remain on the range by castrating stallions and using an unproven birth control vaccine on mares.
AWHC and Curyl maintain due to the scope and scientific controversy surrounding these management decisions BLM is required to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement before moving forward with this approach, particularly when gelding and one of the fertility drugs to be used on mares, GonaCon, may drastically impair the wild horses’ natural behaviors when they’re returned to the range and destroy the social organization of the remaining herds.
The BLM plans to reduce the breeding population of wild horses in both complexes to near extinction levels — 227 in Antelope and 272 in Triple B — by gelding 50 percent of the returned stallions, skewing the sex ratio of these wild horse populations to 60 percent male/40 percent female, and treating all the returned mares with fertility control — either PZP or GonaCon, a vaccine the National Academy of Sciences said required further research before implementation on wild horse herds.
Last week, BLM began implementing the plan by rounding up 900 wild horses from the Triple B Complex.
AWHC and Curyl said the real reason the horses are being removed is to maximize taxpayer-subsidized livestock grazing on the public lands in the area. The BLM authorizes up to 17,638 cow/calf pairs or 88,190 sheep to graze in the Antelope and Triple B Complexes each year, while restricting the number of horses to a maximum of 1,678 wild horses, or one horse per 2,324 acres. This week the government announced it was reducing the livestock grazing fee on public lands to $1.45 per Animal Unit Month — far below the market rate of $20/AUM/month for grazing on private land in the West.