BLM plans to round up fewer horses in the wild

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

The plan is still a proposal, and Colorado BLM spokeswoman Vanessa Delgado said it’s too early to speculate on the impact of a possible northwestern Colorado roundup this year.

BLM director Bob Abbey said in a teleconference Thursday that the agency hopes to reduce roundup numbers from about 10,000 a year to 7,600 a year.

The agency commissioned the National Academy of Sciences to review the issue, and it plans to take the more conservative approach while that review occurs.

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 numbers on public lands to remain at 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,” Abbey said.

The BLM said earlier this month it indefinitely halted plans to remove a herd of about 100 wild horses 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 based on the outcome of the field office’s review, if not as a result of national policy change.

Callie Hendrickson, executive director of the White River and Douglas Creek conservation districts, said the agency should reduce numbers to appropriate levels before reducing roundups. She said that for more than 20 years local ranchers have voluntarily reduced cattle numbers where wild horses roam.

Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive officer of the Humane Society of the U.S.,  said on his blog Thursday he is pleased to see the BLM planning expanded use of fertility controls, but the agency needs to slash its roundup program far beyond what it is proposing.

“A paradigm shift is needed in this program, not just a course correction,” he wrote.


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