SCOTT SONNER—Associated Press
RENO (AP) — Wild horse advocates accuse federal land managers of illegally approving plans for the largest holding facility for thousands of mustangs captured on public pastures in 10 western states.
Friends of Animals said in a lawsuit filed Aug. 15 that up to 4,000 horses would be held captive inhumanely for months or years in dusty, manure-filled pens without shade or windbreaks in Nevada’s high desert.
At a cost of millions of dollars annually to American taxpayers, the suit says it is part of the government’s misguided effort to appease ranchers by speeding up roundups of mustangs that compete with their cattle for public fodder in much of the west affected by the drought
The lawsuit filed in U.S. district court in Reno says the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management violated several animal protection and environmental laws when it “expedited the approval process without considering the impacts of the facility.” unprecedented in the wild horses and burros or the local community. ”
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Interior Department spokesman Tyler Cherry said in an email that neither the department nor the office had comment.
The bureau said in announcing bid requests for the corral in late 2020 that more space was needed to facilitate roundups of what it says is an overpopulation of wild horse herds causing ecological damage to the range.
The office erroneously concluded that a full year-long environmental impact review was not necessary for JS Livestock Inc.’s stockyards on 100 acres of private land near Winnemucca, about 170 miles northeast of Reno, according to the lawsuit.
Jennifer Best, director of the Friends of Animals Wildlife Law Program, said agency officials who approved the bill in November did not adequately respond to concerns raised about disease transmission, animal waste, disposal of dead animals , groundwater contamination and “air quality in terms of odour”. and dust.”
The less rigorous environmental assessment that the agency improperly completed relies on state permits and other documents in an attempt to satisfy reviews required by the National Environmental Policy Act, according to the lawsuit.
Among other things, the lawsuit says the agency will require JS Livestock to clean the 40 pens that can hold up to 100 head of cattle just twice a year. Every six months, 100 horses will produce 465 tons of waste in a 750-square-foot pen, and 4,000 animals will produce 18,000 tons, he said.
“The BLM decision sucks,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals. “If the BLM were to base its decisions on science and not placate the meat industry that wants wild horses extinct, the agency would keep its hands off wild horses.”
The suit says the office downplayed numerous potential impacts, including noise that the agency’s review concluded would not differ materially from the existing land use: an alfalfa field.
“BLM did not explain how a facility with 4,000 wild horses and burros will have the same noise level as alfalfa,” he said.
JS Livestock did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment. Jennifer Erickson, a woman listed as an official with the company, declined immediate comment when contacted by phone Wednesday.
The National Ranchers Association and its Public Lands Council are among those backing the Biden administration’s efforts to reduce what it says is an overpopulation of wild horses on federal land.
“This is not the first time that a group of militant activists has stood in the way of meaningful progress in this crisis, and it won’t be the last,” said Sigrid Johannes, the groups’ associate director.
“Outfield pens are a legitimate, and much-needed, tool in the toolbox for managing critically overcrowded areas,” he said in an email Wednesday.
Nevada is home to about half of the 86,000 horses that roam federal land in 10 states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.
The bureau announced in January that it planned to permanently remove 19,000 wild horses and burros by 2022, the most in a single year.
As of last month, more than 58,000 wild horses and burros were being housed in out-of-range pens and pastures at a cost to taxpayers of $50 million annually, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit said the 2022 raid schedule was based on the opening of the detention facility in Winnemucca. The largest storage facility currently in operation in the Palomino Valley, just north of Reno, has a capacity of 1,800.
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