CARSON CITY, Nev. – The Bureau of Land Management approved the removal of 2,500 wild horses from the range near Reno on Monday as opposition grows to what would be one of the largest mustang roundups in Nevada in recent years.
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., is to hear arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit filed to block the round-up planned for later this month.
The roundup is part of the BLM’s overall strategy to remove thousands of mustangs from public lands around the West and ship them to greener pastures in the East. The BLM estimates about half of the 36,600 wild mustangs live in Nevada. It wants to reduce the overall population to what it considers an “appropriate management level” of 26,600.
In its decision involving the 2,500 Nevada horses, the BLM said removal of the mustangs is needed to bring population numbers down in the Calico Mountains Complex to prevent habitat deterioration.
The agency estimates that more than 3,000 mustangs roam the five herd management areas near the Black Rock Desert that make up the complex. It wants to reduce the population to about 570 by removing horses and treating others with birth control.
BLM spokeswoman JoLynn Worley said the agency in 2000 set what it deemed to be appropriate horse populations for areas in Nevada, and has been working since then to achieve those goals.
Horses taken from the range would be placed for adoption or sent to long-term holding corrals, which now hold about as many wild horses as there are left in the wild.
Horse advocates said the roundup violates the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act, which Congress passed in 1971 to protect wild horses and burros as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.”
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