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Groups Say BLM Plays Dirty Trick on Horses

MANHATTAN (CN) - Defenders of wild horses have challenged a mustang roundup scheduled to start today in northwest Colorado. Habitat for Horses says the roundup continues a Bureau of Land Management pattern of deliberately reducing herd size, then declaring a herd genetically unviable.

The groups want the federal government to return any wild horses it removes from the North Piceance Herd in the White River Resource Area, claiming the BLM "intends to simply eliminate this herd for its convenience."

Joining as plaintiffs in Federal Court are the ASPCA, The Cloud Formation and one of its officers, and a veterinarian.

The horse-lovers say the roundup - scheduled to start Oct. 11 - would round up the entire herd, which had 34 members in March this year. After being captured, the wild horses will "languish in inadequate long-term holding for the rest of their lives," as was the fate of tens of thousands of healthy horses gathered over the past three decades, the groups say.

The BLM claims the horses should be removed because they are "permanently residing" outside the designated use area. But the BLM has no specific criteria for what that means, and does not take into account seasonal migrations, the groups say.

The groups say the roundup is another in an "ongoing series of illegal decisions" on wild horse management across the West.

Habitat for Horses claims it is often called upon to rescue wild, captured horses sold by the BLM and mistreated by their new owners.

The horses' habitat is being degraded by oil and gas development and cows more than by wild horses, the groups say. They say the BLM should have considered alternatives to the roundup.

The groups' lead counsel is Thomas Battistoni with Schiff Hardin of San Francisco.

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