Legal battle set at ground zero for BLM's wild horse roundups in Nevada

BLM begins roundup of nearly 3,000 horses in Nevada

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A wild horse roundup currently underway in Northern Nevada is expected to gather about 2,875 horses to put up for adoption.

The Bureau of Land Management began the operation Thursday on the East Pershing Complex, which covers 2,191,650 acres of public and private land between Winnemucca and Lovelock. The area is about 430 miles north of Las Vegas and northeast of Reno.

Helicopters will be used to round up the horses.

On the first day of the roundup, 142 wild horses (63 stallions, 74 mares and 5 foals) were removed from the range, which is shared with sage grouse, bighorn sheep, mule deer and pronghorn antelope, along with other wildlife. Wild horses thrive in Nevada, putting pressure on the habitat’s ability to support a variety of animals. The ongoing roundups are intended to scale back the horse populations so the habitats are not damaged.

But the roundups are always controversial for several reasons.

The use of helicopters leads to injuries as the horses are gathered, and a 2023 lawsuit highlighted the death of a horse in eastern Nevada that was put to death after a helicopter chased the animal as it fled with a broken leg.

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus has criticized the operations and introduced federal legislation to stop the use of helicopters. The bill has bipartisan support.

Conservation groups have also criticized the BLM, alleging that cattle grazing on public lands are also part of the problem — and yet the BLM continues to permit grazing while targeting the horses. Ranchers pay for the permits, which provide revenue for the government.

A lawsuit filed in September 2023 by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) claims that grazing permits are issued despite the land’s failure to meet federal standards due to damage caused by livestock. Large parts of Nevada haven’t even been reviewed for years, PEER said.

The BLM allows public observation of roundups, and provides updates on the number of horses gathered on their website. BLM reports the number of horses put to death because they cannot survive in the wild, and also deaths associated with acute injuries that happen during the gather.

A November news release from BLM indicated that more than 8,000 horses were placed in new homes in 2023. “Of the wild horses and burros placed into new homes, 6,220 animals were adopted, 1,798 were sold and 27 were transferred to other government agencies. This is the second-highest number of animals placed into new homes in over 25 years,” BLM reported.



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