By Tom McGhee, The Denver Post
August 16, 2016
Wild horse advocates have asked a federal judge to order the Bureau of Land Management to allow them to observe sterilization of wild mares, calling the planned procedures, experimental, invasive, inhumane, outdated and dangerous.
The Cloud Foundation and the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign sued Neil Kornze, BLM director, and other agency officials Monday in U.S. District Court in Oregon, where the BLM plans to perform the sterilization in conjunction with Oregon State University.
The lawsuit follows one in July asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to stop the sterilization.
“A court order declaring the BLM’s restrictions on public access unconstitutional and requiring the BLM to provide access to observe and record the BLM’s wild horse sterilization experiments at the Hines Corrals would protect the First Amendment rights of the advocates” and allow them to provide the public with information about the horses treatment, the suit says.
The agency doesn’t comment on litigation, said David Boyd, a BLM spokesman.
According to a BLM fact sheet, the 67,027 wild horses and burros roaming federal land in 10 states is more than twice what the range can support.
Wild horse and burro herds double in size about every four years, according to the fact sheet, and the BLM keeps many of the animals in holding facilities. As of June, the agency held more than 45,000 of the wild horses and burros in holding facilities.
The BLM awarded a research grant to Oregon State to conduct three “sterilization experiments on wild mares at the agency’s corral facilities in Hines, Ore.,” the suit says.
The sterilization methods include removal of both ovaries, using a “highly invasive surgical technique disfavored by veterinary experts because of the high risk of death and injury to both mare and its foal if the mare is pregnant, which is usually the case with respect to wild horses removed from the range,” the suit says.
The other procedures planned are also inhumane and would require veterinary resources that are not available on the range, the suit says.
In an environmental assessment, the BLM said “the results of this study are expected to aid BLM in determining the social acceptability of each procedure,” the suit says.
By denying public observation of the sterilization, the BLM has “departed significantly from its stated national policy of transparency and openness to public and media observation of its management of wild horses,” the suit says.
The 1971 law Congress passed allocating land to the horses also authorizes numerous commercial and noncommercial activities on that property, including livestock grazing, energy development and outdoor recreation.
Advocates maintain that cattle chew up much of the forage on the 31.6 million acres of herd-managed range.