Thursday, December 31, 2009

Nevada wild-horse roundup protested in S.F.

San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mustang advocates staged a literal dog-and-pony show in San Francisco on Wednesday to protest a federal roundup of wild horses from a Nevada mountain range.

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The equine enthusiasts brought a miniature horse, a burro and a horse-like English mastiff to the busy downtown sidewalk in front of Sen. Dianne Feinstein's office, to urge her continued support for the plight of the country's 37,000 wild horses and burros.
"Wild horses have as much a right to freedom as American citizens do," said Karen Allen, a secretary from Concord who joined the protest. "These animals are a symbol of our heritage, and we're not treating them well."
The Bureau of Land Management began Monday rounding up 2,500 wild horses from a group of about 3,050 in the Calico Mountains near Nevada's Black Rock Desert. The younger horses will be tamed and adopted out, and the older horses will be trucked to the Midwest, where they'll spend the remainder of their lives roaming on private pastureland, according to the bureau.
The roundup is necessary because the herd populations are doubling every four years and the horses are overgrazing on federal land that must be shared with cattle, said BLM spokesman Tom Gorey.
The roundups started in 1976 and occur every few years to thin out herds around the West, but the current Calico roundup is among the largest in agency history. Using helicopters and wranglers, federal contractors are moving the horses through the mountains to a corral where they're vaccinated, checked by a veterinarian and sorted by age and gender.
Mustang advocates say the horses, which have been roaming free for 500 years, should be left alone. They're being unfairly forced off their land to make room for cattle, whose grazing permits generate revenue for the federal government, said lawyer Virginie Parant, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign.
During the journey over icy, rocky terrain, the horses sometimes break limbs, colts can become separated from their mothers, and pregnant mares undergo severe hardship, she said. So far on the Calico roundup, one horse has been euthanized, according to the agency.
"This country was built on horses' backs, literally, and they're being treated like vermin," Parant said. "The range is supposed to be shared."
Parant's group wants an independent audit of the wild horse population, birth control administered in the wild and stronger federal protection for the horses, which are not endangered.
The agency is already testing birth control methods, Gorey said.
"We respect these iconic animals," he said. "We don't remove horses to make room for cattle. But we do have to balance the mandates for land use."
E-mail Carolyn Jones at
This article appeared on page C - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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