Genetic Report Urges BLM to Increase the Herd Size
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO. (Dec. 5, 2013) – On Friday, Nov. 29, The Cloud Foundation (TCF) filed a Motion for Reconsideration on the heels of a dismissal of their lawsuit against both the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (FS) by U.S. District Court Judge Gwin. TCF’s case challenged the BLM on the setting of an Appropriate Management Level (AML), which would, according to TCF, jeopardize the long-term genetic viability of Montana’s Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Herd. The TCF case also sought to have the Custer National Forest remove a 2-mile long, 6-foot high fence, completed in 2011, which eliminates the majority of critical high elevation grazing for the herd.
The Motion for Reconsideration was filed on grounds the Judge failed to consider TCF’s key arguments, instead citing issues, which were not TCF’s main complaints, and actually contradicting a ruling he had made in 2010. The 2010 ruling allowed TCF to bring the FS into the case based on the construction of the new fence.
TCF argues that the two-pronged nature of the lawsuit against both the BLM and FS is essential. The small AML is based on the acreage within the designated Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range, a range that should be larger and include the historic use area of the mustangs in the Custer National Forest.
“A significant increase in the horse population is dependent on range expansion,” says Ginger Kathrens, Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation. “A larger population is needed to maintain the genetic variability of the herd.”
An August, 2013 report by leading equine geneticist, E. Gus Cothran, PhD, Texas A&M University, would seem to agree. Cothran warns of declining variability in the famed herd. Analyzing the genetics of wild horses removed from the Pryor range last year, Cothran urged the BLM to “increase population size if range conditions allow.”
Today the Pryor herd is around 150 adult horses, down from highs in the low 200s in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In his report Cothran writes that a decline in variability is “likely due to the population size that has been maintained in recent years.”
“It’s pretty clear that the Pryor herd needs to be bigger,” concludes Kathrens. “The return of historic lands in not only the Custer National Forest but also in the Bighorn Canyon National Recreational Area is essential in order for the herd to grow to genetically viable numbers of at least 200-250 adult horses.”
TCF plans to continue their fight for Montana’s Pryor Mustangs, famous not only for their Spanish heritage but for the stallion, Cloud, documented by Kathrens since the day of his birth in 1995. The Emmy Award-winning filmmaker has produced three acclaimed programs for the PBS Nature Series about this still powerful Pryor stallion.