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BLM Ends Nevada Wild Horse Fertility Project

By on May 11, 2016

Wild horses are seen accessing a water hole during a Bureau of Land Management tour in the Pine Nut Mountains. (Photo: Jason Bean, Reno Gazette-Journal)

RENO, Nev. – Under the threat of another legal battle, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has pulled the plug on a public-private partnership in northern Nevada aimed at shrinking the size of a wild horse herd through the use of contraceptives, according to documents The Associated Press obtained on Tuesday.

BLM officials confirmed they have suspended the pilot fertility-control project southeast of Carson City pending completion of additional environmental analysis.

Unlike most conflicts over mustangs that pit protection groups against ranchers, the dispute in Nevada’s Pine Nut Mountains has divided horse advocates themselves over the appropriate use of fertility-control drugs on the range.

The federal agency approved the pilot project in 2014 working with the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and the Gardnerville-based Pine Nut Wild Horse Advocates to treat a herd that a federal judge in Reno has forbidden the agency from gathering.

BLM suspended the project Monday after Friends of Animals threatened to sue based on claims the drug, PZP, harms horses and violates the judge’s order, according to an internal email obtained by AP.

“Administration of PZP to these wild horses is hereby suspended, pending further review,” BLM Sierra Front Field Manager Bryant D. Smith wrote in informing his staff he had revoked the decision record for the Fish Springs Wild Horses PZP Pilot Project.

While some groups advocate fertility control as a preferred alternative to government roundups, others say scientific research suggests PZP can have long-lasting physical, behavioral and social effects on wild horses. Among other things, they say mares that cannot get pregnant choose to leave their bands, creating instability that affects the health of the entire herd.

“We are extremely happy to have killed the pilot project and to put a stop to the forced drugging of Pine Nut mares with the fertility control pesticide PZP for a second time,” said Pricilla Feral, president of the Connecticut-based Friends of Animals, an international advocacy group founded in 1957.

The BLM maintains the Pine Nut herd is seriously overpopulated, and it intended to round up more than 300 horses last year before U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks sided with wild horse advocates and blocked the effort. He ruled the BLM failed to conduct the necessary analysis required under the National Environmental Policy Act, and soon after the agency voluntarily withdrew its roundup plan….

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Source: Scott Sonner – AP Reporter

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