Vast, open landscapes, clear blue skies and plenty of space for wild horses to run free: The image is a quintessential part of the American West. Yet with changing environments, those wild spaces and the ability of animals to live and roam are under threat.
This week, officials began a roundup of about 2,500 wild horses from public and private lands in Nevada, positing that the 850 square miles of land is overpopulated and could become unlivable to wildlife and livestock in the next four years. The mustangs will be placed for adoption or moved to holding facilities in the Midwest.
The roundup is part of a greater effort by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to remove thousands of mustangs from public lands across the West in order to protect wild horse herds and the lands that are essential to their livelihood.
Unfortunately, the roundup has raised concerns from animal protection groups. Two helicopters have been used in the roundup to move the horses to corrals, which horse defenders say is inhumane and risks injury, and even death, to the animals. Timing is another factor; opponents to the round up hold that executing a roundup in winter exposes the horses to risk of respiratory illness. There are also complaints regarding BLM’s transparency when it comes to how the horses are treated during roundups.
Earlier this month, In Defense of Animals called the Nevada roundup illegal, asking a federal judge to block the plan. Despite their efforts, the roundup was not called off. BLM contends that without removal, the land will no longer be able to provide the horses with enough water or foraging space.
IDA doesn’t just have protesters on the ground; the organization has filed an official lawsuit against the government.
“We are on strong ground in charging that the BLM’s policy of stockpiling tens of thousands of horses in the Midwest, off their rightful Western ranges, is contrary to law, the intent of Congress and the will of the American people,” says William J. Spriggs, the attorney who filed the case on behalf of IDA.
But for now, the roundup continues.
Photo credit: RickC