Thursday, February 23, 2017

No home on the range - BLM, powerball, pzp & pine nuts

There are an estimated 100,000 wild horses in the Western United States, but only a little more than half of them actually live in the wild of the vast range lands. The rest are kept in corrals and long-term pastures run by the Bureau of Land Management—whose job it has been to manage wild horses since 1971. These numbers represent a real and growing problem... In 2015, the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program spent nearly two-thirds of its roughly $72 million annual budget on housing the horses it has taken out of the wild. And, as of August 2016, the agency estimated its holding facilities were nearly 80 percent full. What’s more, according to its figures, the number of horses left on the range is fully two times what’s ideal...In an email interview, BLM spokespersons Jenny Lesieutre and Jason Lutterman provided an update on what’s happened in the interim, noting that “the BLM has acquired more off-range pastures to reduce the number of horses in higher-cost corrals.”... An October article in South Dakota’s Butte County Post about one of these pasture acquisitions, reported a Powerball jackpot winner had agreed to let the BLM pasture a herd of 917 horses on roughly 50 square mile of privately owned grassland 75 miles north of Rapid City, South Dakota—for a price of $2 per horse, per day. The BLM also puts some wild horses up for adoption and sale. According to Lesieutre and Lutterman, until the BLM has “better tools to manage wild horses on the range,” the agency has capped the number of horses that can be removed each year at 3,500, “about the same number that leave the system through adoption, sales and natural mortality.” In 2015, the BLM reported the roundup of 3,093 horses—nearly half from Nevada. The same year, 2,331 were sold or adopted. Pine Nut Wild Horse Advocates—a non-profit—began darting mares with PZP in 2012. In 2014, a pilot program to control the population of wild horses near the Pine Nut Mountains was officially established with the blessing of the Wild Horse and Burro Program’s Nevada office. The program was established at no cost to BLM. The Pine Nut group’s members use donated funds to pay for PZP training and certification from another nonprofit, the Science and Conservation Center in Billings, Montana. They also use fundraising to pay for the vaccines, which according to Deb Walker, the group’s president, cost about $25 per dose. A mare needs two doses in the first year, and one every year thereafter. But it has been almost a year since the group’s members have darted a mare. Their carbon dioxide powered dart guns—some on loan from the BLM—have sat unused, save for target practice, since another advocacy group threatened the BLM with a lawsuit. Friends of Animals cited concerns over alleged side effects of the treatment and a belief that the program violated a judge’s court order forbidding the roundup of horses from the area east of Gardnerville. Now, members of the Pine Nut group worry the PZP they’ve administered to 36 different mares from four bands is wearing off...more

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