BLM to round up fewer wild horses

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management plans to reduce the number of wild horses it removes from public lands each year in controversial roundups.

BLM director Bob Abbey told reporters in a teleconference today that the agency will reduce roundup numbers from about 10,000 a year to 7,600 a year, unless drought or other emergency factors require more to be removed.

The agency has commissioned the National Academy of Sciences to review the wild horse issue and make recommendations to the BLM on how to proceed, and decided to take the more conservative approach to roundups while that review occurs this year and next.

In conjunction with the roundup reduction, the BLM plans to increase the number of mares treated with fertility controls from 500 in 2009 to 2,000 a year for the next couple of years, budget-permitting, Abbey said.

With fewer roundups, the agency expects wild horse numbers on public lands to remain at a level of about 35,500, about 9,000 higher than the BLM considers appropriate for proper range management.

“Am I expecting full agreement with these reforms? No,” said Abbey.

He said he knows there’s no consensus on how best to manage the animals, but the agency will be announcing more reforms in the next half year.

The BLM said earlier this month it has indefinitely halted plans to remove a wild horse herd of about 100 animals from an area it considers inappropriate for the animals south of Rangely. That proposed removal has been the subject of a legal challenge by horse advocacy groups, and the agency decided that before continuing to pursue the action, it wanted its White River Field Office to take a comprehensive look at wild horse management.

It still has been considering a roundup this year to reduce herd numbers in an area west of Meeker, but that could be canceled depending on the outcome of the field office’s review.


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