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Wild horse advocates condemn Interior Department’s population control plan

Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 11:54 AM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Animal rights groups are contacting the Biden administration, condemning their latest move to control the overpopulation of wild horses in the West, including in Nevada.

“We’re going to fight as hard as we’ve ever fought before,” said Marty Irby, Executive Director of Animal Wellness Action.

Irby said he was sickened to hear Interior Secretary Deb Haaland detail the Biden Administration’s policy on managing the overpopulation of wild horses in the West.

“We’re in agreement with the plan of the previous Administration,” she said during an April 20 appropriations hearing. “We’re going to let the science guide us.”

Under those policies, the Wild Horse and Burro Program will continue to use a combination of measures to manage the population, including helicopter roundups to gather and corral horses into pens, fertility controls and adoption and sales programs.

After legal challenges, the Department of Interior said in April they will not be following through on a plan to test a controversial sterilization method where they forcibly remove mares’ ovaries.

Irby said population control actions like helicopter roundups are inhumane, unnecessary and disrespectful to an American treasure.

“This country was built on their backs,” Irby said. “They deserve a special place, they deserve to be protected.”

Another advocacy group the American Wild Horse Campaign is also urging the Biden administration to manage wild horses better. You can listen to an excerpt of the interview with Executive Director Suzanne Roy below:

But the Biden administration does have backing from agricultural groups like the Nevada Farm Bureau. Nevada Farm Bureau President Bevan Lister said birth control alone will not get the herds to a manageable level fast enough because resources are limited on rangelands.

“We support any and every means possible to bring the wild horse and burro populations into appropriate management level,” said Lister.

Lister said food, water and exceptional drought conditions are currently threatening the health and safety of thousands of horses. He explained why stabilizing the population as soon as possible is crucial.

“We’re seeing range degradation at a rate that has never been seen before,” said Lister. If you’ve never seen an animal choked to death for lack of water or starved to death for lack of food, it is an ugly and inhumane and unconscionable thing.”

Secretary Haaland and White House officials declined repeated interview requests about details of their plan.

Experts say we’ll learn more details about the Administration’s goals for the Wild Horse and Burro Program after a Bureau of Land Management Director is confirmed and the White House’s detailed budget is revealed later this month.

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