Steens Mountain wild horse round up still on, for now

By Dylan J. Darling, The Bulletin

A legal challenge has not yet stopped the Bureau of Land Management’s plan to round up wild horses on Steens Mountain.

The roundup of mustangs from the Kiger and Riddle Mountain herd management areas is still slated for later this summer, said Jeff Clark, spokesman for the BLM in Portland.

“We don’t have a firm date yet,” he said. “They are shooting for the middle of August.”

This summer’s roundup would be the first of Kiger and Riddle Mountain wild horses since 2011. Hoping to change how the federal government manages the two herds, Colorado nonprofit Front Range Equine Rescue this week filed an appeal to the plan.

Most of the horses gathered in the roundup will be put up for adoption or sent to long-term holding pastures in the Midwest, Clark said, and some will be returned to Steens Mountain. No horses would be killed under the plan.

“ … (T)he Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management care deeply about the well-being of wild horses, both on and off the range, and it has been and remains the policy of the BLM not to sell or send wild horses or burros to slaughter,” Clark wrote in an email.

While the group did not specifically ask the Department of the Interior appeals board to stop this summer’s roundup, Bruce Wagman, a San Francisco attorney representing Front Range, said it is hopeful the BLM will hold off. The Department of the Interior oversees the BLM.

“We hope that the BLM will not go forward and will reconsider based on all the information, facts and law in our appeal,” he said.

In its 29-page appeal Front Range claims the BLM is violating federal law designed to protect wild horses by selectively breeding Kiger horses, targeting traits that make them more appealing as adopted animals.

The latest BLM estimates show the Riddle Mountain herd has 67 adults and 14 foals, for 81 total wild horses, Clark said, and the Kiger herd has 130 adults and 26 foals, for 156 total wild horses.

The BLM plan calls for 73 Riddle Mountain and 141 Kiger wild horses to be gathered and then 25 Riddle Mountain and 36 Kiger wild horses to be returned. Wild horses not returned would either be adopted or moved out of Oregon to long-term holding pastures in Nebraska, Oklahoma and other Midwest states.

“Horses in both (herd management areas) would be selected to maintain a diverse age structure and exemplify physical and conformation characteristics that would perpetuate the desirable features of the Kiger Mustang,” according to the BLM plan. These characteristics include color, markings and size.

Kiger and Riddle Mountain wild horses have “Spanish Mustang” characteristics that set them apart from other horses in America, according to the BLM. Their look has helped make them popular for adoption, Clark said. He declined to comment on Front Range’s appeal, saying he had not seen the court filing.

Originally Posted By The Bend Bulletin