KBR Wild Horse and Burro News
In the past few months about 1000 wild horses have wandered into the Sheldon-Hart National Wildlife Refuge near the Nevada-Oregon border. These horses have predominantly migrated from areas burned out due to last year's wildfires. The US Fish and Wildlife Service originally planned to gather all the horses and dispose of them at a sale. According to reliable sources, subsequent public protest has delayed their action and it appears that later this year they will attempt to gather about 450 head and get rid of them.
Whether the horses should be removed is not at question. The horses do not belong in the wildlife refuge and their normal range has not recovered sufficiently for them to go "home." What is at issue is how the horses will be removed and where they will go.
Based on current interpretations of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, horses found on lands managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) as well as the National Parks Service (NPS) are not protected by the provisions of the Act. One can make an argument, however, that Congress' intent was to define management practices for horses on Federal lands and these agencies should make reasonable attempts to follow the spirit of the Act.
The State of Nevada, who is not subject to the Act for horses found on State lands, has recently entered into a formal agreement with the Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association and subordinate groups to place estray horses gathered by the state which don't get adopted through the state adoption process. The state places reasonable requirements and responsibilities on adopters and its stewardship of wild horses and burros is in close keeping with the standards for Federally protected horses. It is now time that all Federal agencies do at least as much.
Since Sheldon-Hart is just one of countless situations that arise involving estray horses and burros, we have two practical choices available with which to develop a long term solution. The first is to press Congress to tighten up the Act to clearly include all Federal lands. The second is to engage the Department of Interior in hopes of encouraging them to enter into agreements as pioneered by the State of Nevada so that estray horses and burros can enjoy reasonable protections. The second choice would be the least expensive to all parties and provide the most immediate solutions.
Please note: FWS has contracted to Return to Freedom to gather, provide sanctuary for some horses and place others in "foster homes." This story has been left on the site to provide background information.
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