PRINEVILLE, Ore. - Over 6,000 citizens have written to the Bureau of Land Management's Prineville District in opposition to its plan to round up and remove hundreds of wild horses from their homes on the range in Eastern Oregon, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, a national coalition, announced Tuesday.
At issue, the group said, are Oregon's historic Timber Horses, who live deep amongst the conifers and Ponderosa pines in the Malheur National Forest and surrounding public lands that comprise the Murderers Creek Herd Management Area (HMA) and Wild Horse Territory.
Descendants of Native American horses, New World Iberian breeds and horses that helped early settlers develop the West, the Murderers Creek mustangs are genetically unique to their isolated geography.
The citizen opposition was submitted in response to the BLM's request for comments on a Preliminary Environmental Assessment of its plan to roundup – via helicopter stampede and bait trapping – and remove 338 Murderers Creek mustangs over the next 10 years, driving the population of this historic herd down to just 50 horses.
"This is just one example of the government reducing a wild horse herd to a dangerously low number of animals, which jeopardizes the long-term genetic health of the herd," said Suzanne Roy, AWHPC director. "It's time for the BLM to listen to the American public. For too long, this agency has ignored public sentiment and galloped ahead with its costly wild horse roundup program, to the detriment of American taxpayers and America's cherished wild horses."
The BLM's plan for Murderers Creek would add hundreds more horses to government-holding facilities which is nearly at capacity with 50,000 wild horses. A recent investigative news article published by ProPublica indicates that the BLM has stockpiled so many horses that it has turned to the illegal sale of wild horses to a known "kill buyer" in order to dispense of the mustangs. Over 1700 federally protected wild horses have been sold to this individual and likely were sent to Mexico for slaughter.
"The BLM's plan to roundup hundreds of Oregon mustangs at a time when the agency's holding pens are full demonstrates its lack of commitment to a sustainable program," said Ginger Kathrens, founder and director of The Cloud Foundation, an AWHPC coalition partner. "Americans need to know that the 50,000 wild horses captured and warehoused by the BLM are in imminent danger of slaughter so long as this agency continues along the same, untenable path."
AWHPC and The Cloud Foundation submitted public comments requesting that the BLM implement an alternative management plan for the Murderers Creek horses that would utilize PZP birth control to humanely manage reproduction while accommodating present wild horse population numbers by reducing livestock grazing in the complex. This groups' proposal was endorsed by approximately 6,000 public comments submitted on the proposed BLM Murderers Creek roundup.
In the last four years, under Secretary Salazar's tenure, the BLM has rounded up and removed over 35,000 wild horses from their homes on the range on Western public lands. Only a third of these horses have been adopted, the groups said.
Most captured horses are warehoused in holding facilities. Currently, there are more wild horses in government holding facilities (50,000) than are left free on the range (32,000).
The critics said wild horses are removed by the thousands from public lands to make room for taxpayer-subsidized livestock grazing. Private livestock exceed wild horses on BLM lands by at least 50-1. In Murderers Creek, the BLM authorizes five times more privately-owned livestock than federally-protected wild horses to graze this designated wild horse habitat area.
The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 50 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come.
The Cloud Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of wild horses and burros on our Western public lands with a focus on protecting Cloud's herd in the Pryor Mountains of Montana.