Critics skeptical of US 'compassion' for mustangs

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 1, 2013 at 3:01 pm •  Published: February 1, 2013
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BLM spokeswoman Michelle Barret told The Associated Press, "All of this is in response to public concerns that were raised in a number of gathers. ... The welfare issues, the humane animal treatment during gathers, we realized that we needed to step it up here and address some of the public concerns."

Laura Leigh, president of the Nevada-based Wild Horse Education, who appealed her case to the 9th Circuit, is glad BLM is addressing the roundup concerns but doesn't "hold much hope that I will witness much change."

"I'll believe it when I see it," added Anne Novak, executive director of Protect Mustangs in Berkeley, Calif.

American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign founder Neda DeMayo criticized part of the new policy that specifies BLM treat horses "consistent with domestic livestock handling practices." That's a significant step back from the standard BLM Nevada Director Amy Lueders established in a December 2011 memo that said it should be consistent with "domestic horse handling procedures," she said.

"Although domestic horse handling practices are a step above the livestock industry, wild horses are neither domestic horses nor livestock. They are wild animals and as such must be humanely managed as a wildlife species on the range where they belong," DeMayo said.

About half of the estimated 37,000 horses and burros on federal lands are in Nevada. BLM maintains that the range can sustain only about 26,000 and conducts roundups regularly to try to get closer to that number. But the practice is almost always contentious.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who is stepping down in March, has called wild horse management "the most difficult issue we have dealt with" in his four-year tenure.

"We've had hundreds of meetings on it and there are still a lot of problems," Salazar told The Gazette of Colorado Springs last fall. He made the comment after apologizing for threatening to punch a Gazette reporter who asked him about problems with the wild horses at a campaign event for President Barack Obama.

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Daly reported from Washington D.C.