This week, the Bureau of Land Management is to begin a helicopter-conducted wild horse gather in eastern Nevada.
However, the gather is being criticized from Washington even before it begins.
Slated to be held within and outside the overpopulated Silver King Herd Management area, the BLM plans to remove 980 excess wild horses and bring the numbers down to around 245.
BLM reported the Silver King Management area is “currently 10 times above the land’s capacity to support wild horses along with other wildlife long- term.”
As reported in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, this roundup is just one of many that have drawn criticism in recent years from lawmakers in Washington on both sides of the aisle.
The bipartisan opposition could increase even more when Congress reconvenes in January and Democrats take control of the House of Representatives.
Many lawmakers advocate other means to reduce the excess numbers of wild horses on public lands, not only in Nevada, but other western states as well.
The Review-Journal article noted that Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) has been particularly critical in the past, claiming the federal government is wasting money rounding up and holding horses instead of using more effective birth control programs.
Published reports say the government spends about $81 million annually on the wild horse program. In July, Titus sent a letter to the BLM recommending a reassessment of the priorities, noting that only one percent of the money was spent on fertility programs, while 67 percent was used for roundups and removals.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has spoken of the ban on horse slaughtering and complained that the BLM is dragging its feet on really doing anything about the growing herds in the west.
He also favors birth control but said holding wild horses in long-term captivity is inhumane. Zinke blames Congress for not doing anything about culling out the sick, unhealthy, and in some cases, starving excess horses.
Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) has stated that birth control inoculations are ineffective. He favors a neuter and spaying program.
Wild horses and burros are protected under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burro Act of 1971, which gives the BLM the authority to manage the herds.
As noted in the Record on Nov. 23, the horses from the Silver King Area will be transported to the Indian Lakes Off-Range Wild Horse and Burro Corrals in Fallon, checked by veterinarians, and readied for the BLM adoption program.
With Democrats taking control of the House, it is thought Congress may require more scrutiny of the BLM program of the herds in the southwest states.
The Review-Journal article said Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who is expected to be the incoming chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, which oversees federals lands, including the Interior Department and branch agencies, may want policy changes made.
In his role as Interior Secretary, Zinke changed BLM policy to allow a buyer to purchase 24 horses passed over by the adoption without need of special permission, a waiting period, or justification.
Previous BLM policy limited a single buyer’s purchase to no more than four wild horses or burros every six months.