For years, the Bureau of Land Management has rounded up thousands of wild horses on public lands – including California – offering them at auctions, placing them in short-term corrals or long-term pastures. Last year alone, BLM removed 9,715 horse and 540 burros from the range. Now, that practice is being questioned as the ancestry of these wild horses will be part of a case presented to a federal court in San Francisco.
The L.A. Times reports this week that animal rights groups are maintaining that the current stock of wild horses can trace their equine roots not to European explorers and settlers, but to the native horses that populated the area about 1.5 million years ago – and they have the archeological digs and DNA to back them up.
The new way of thinking, if accepted, could affect hundreds millions of acres in the West where the U.S. Bureau of Land Management divides livestock grazing allotments based partly on the belief that the horses are no more native to those lands than are the cattle brought to North America centuries ago….
Rachel Fazio, a lawyer for Defense of Animals and other plaintiffs, told a 9th Circuit appellate panel in San Francisco earlier this year that the horses are “an integral part of the environment,” adding, “as much as the BLM would like to see them as not, they are actually a native species. They are tied to this land. There would not be a horse but for North America. Every single evolutionary iteration of the horse is found here and only here.
Naturally, the BLM isn’t buying the evidence, and ranchers are seeing the move as a smokescreen to remove livestock off public lands.
Currently, the BLM manages more than 245 million acres of federal land in 12 western states where roughly 33,000 horses roam, mainly in Nevada.