BLM proposed removal targets youngest of famous Pryor Mountain Mustangs
Cloud’s family and other wild horse families threatened
BILLINGS, Mont. (Dec. 16, 2011) – The Montana Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Billings Field Office issued a Preliminary Environment Assessment outlining plans to strip at least half of the young wild horses from the Pryor Mountains in 2012. The BLM preferred alternative would result in a loss of 20% of the herd and 50% of the young horses, ages one-three, in order to reach their Appropriate Management Level (AML) of 90-120 set in the Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) of 2009.
The Cloud Foundation (TCF) immediately brought suit against the BLM in 2009, challenging the AML of 90-120 horses, asserting that this low population would damage the genetic diversity of the herd and put them at risk of inbreeding and eventual die-off.
“The Pryor Wild Horse Herd has never been managed at the levels set in this recent HMAP,” states Ginger Kathrens, Executive Director of TCF. “In fact, Sandra Brooks, BLM Field Manager, from 1995 to 2008 stated that the herd ‘has been managed at dangerously low levels.’ She was referring to populations of 140 to 210 horses in the 1990s and 2000s. The genetic viability of this herd—their very survival—is at stake if BLM carries out this plan.”
Litigation brought by TCF also challenges the herd boundaries. Judge Gwin ruled that the Custer National Forest (FS) could be added as a defendant in the Foundation suit when the FS issued plans in the summer of 2010 to construct a two mile-long, buck and pole fence on the border between the BLM and FS lands atop East Pryor Mountain. The fence was completed in October of 2010 and, for the first time in the over 200 year documented history of the herd, wild horses were denied access to their late summer and fall meadows atop the mountain.
“BLM seems oblivious to the fact that a significant number of horses died over the past year, thus negating the need for their thoughtless proposal to remove more horses,” states Kathrens. “Early this summer we found the bodies of Cabaret’s band of wild horses in the melting snow, about 100 yards below the fence that kept them from accessing their normal migratory route to their home in the Forest Service.”
If the BLM undertakes their planned 2012 removals, the bait and possibly water trapping of horses could begin this winter and continue throughout the year. Written comments from the public must be postmarked no later than January 6, 2012. Emails will not be accepted. Comments should be sent to Jim Sparks, Field Manager, BLM Billings Field Office, 5001 Southgate Drive, Billings, MT 59101.
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