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Sequester prompts call for wild horses and burros to be returned to the wild 

Horseback Magazine , April 8, 2013

images-11WASHINGTON (April 8, 2013)–Last week Protect Mustangs, the California based conservation group, officially called for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to put a freeze on roundups and return all wild horses and burros, in government funded holding, to herd management areas in the West. They cited the current climate of federal economic instability as putting captive wild horses and burros at risk. As of April 7th, Protect Mustangs has not received a response from from BLM officials.

“It’s fiscal folly to roundup more wild horses and burros than they can adopt out,” explains Anne Novak, executive director for Protect Mustangs. “The roundups need to stop now. We are calling for the more than 50,000 stockpiled native wild horses and historic burros to be returned immediately to public land. We are concerned the government won’t be able to pay for their feed and care during the federal fiscal crisis. We need to be proactive to ensure their safety. If a government shutdown occurs, their only chance of survival is in the wild.”

The Weekly Standard broke the story on BLM’s $6 Mil helicopter contract for the wild horse and burro program after the sequester went into effect.

Roundups increased dramatically in 2009–the same year BLM started fast tracking energy projects with the Stimulus Act in full force. The deadly Calico Roundup and others popped up all along the Ruby Pipeline natural gas route. Protect Mustangs believes wild horses and burros are being removed from 26 million acres to avoid environmental mitigation and costly delays for the extractive industry.

Last month, in response to the BLM’s request for comments on the controversial Continental Divide-Cresta natural gas development project, Protect Mustangs called for a $50 Mil fund to mitigate environmental distress and removal of Wyoming’s wild horses.

In 2012, Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board member, Callie Hendrickson, suggested slaughtering native wild horses as a solution for the government’s holding crisis. Protect Mustangs is concerned the pro-kill faction of the BLM will jump on current federal economic instability to spin a death or slaughter sentence for captured wild horses and burros.

“Native wild horses should not be made to suffer further because of the BLM’s fiscal irresponsibility,” states Kerry Becklund, outreach director for Protect Mustangs. “Killing them is wrong. Now it’s time to return them to their wild lands. All the captive males have already been castrated so they won’t be reproducing. Overpopulation is a myth anyways.”

The BLM justifies using fertility control drugs because of the overpopulation myth. Yet cattle outnumbers wild horses at least 50 to 1 and is the source of most range damage. EPA approved “limited use pesticides” such as SpayVac®, GonaConand ZonaSta-H appear to be risky forms of fertility control. Currently the BLM is using these drugs on wild horses and burros on the range. Protect Mustangs is against using pesticides on native wild horses–especially the nonviable herds.

“Why aren’t these drugs FDA approved for domestic horses if they aren’t harmful?” asks Novak. “We are against using these drugs on mares being released back into the wild. It’s dangerous to use these drugs on nonviable herds. If the herd numbers drop then inbreeding occurs and that’s bad.”

In Wild Horses as Native North American Wildlife (Revised January 2010)  J.F.Kirkpatrick Ph.D., and Patricia M. Fazio Ph.D. wrote:

The key element in describing an animal as a native species is (1) where it originated; and (2) whether or not it co‐evolved with its habitat. Clearly, E. 6 caballus did both, here in North American. There might be arguments about “breeds,” but there are no scientific grounds for arguments about “species.”

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