Horse roundups amid drought create debate

In recent weeks, federal workers have flown large helicopters roundups to eliminate feral horses in the US states of Utah and Colorado.

The Bureau of Land Management, the agency responsible for public lands across the United States, says the roundups are necessary to protect the environment and horses as a severe drought strikes.

However, animal rights activists say the US government is using drought as an excuse to eliminate horses in favor of cattle grazing.

Terry Messmer is a professor at Utah State University who studies the wild horse management. He said: “What we see here in the West gives preview in a new standard. The standard signifies usual or expected behavior.

A wild horse known as the Old Man at large is shown on July 14, 2021, as the sun sets near the US Army Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. He was left behind in a July roundup that removed around 300 other horses from the lineup. (AP Photo / Rick Bowmer)

The dispute

Wild horses are largely descended from those brought by Europeans hundreds of years ago. Herds – or groups of horses – can double in size every four to five years. When populations get too high, they destroy the soil, reduce the water supply, and eat the grass needed by native plants. species like the increasingly rare sage-grouse, Messmer said.

The Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, oversees a very large area of ​​land in the American West. He is also responsible for controlling the wild horse population. The BLM plans to withdraw some 6,000 horses, mostly from Nevada, Oregon, Wyoming and Colorado, by October, a 50% increase from last year. Ultimately, the agency wants to reduce the number of wild horses by two thirds.

Without these measures, authorities say horses could die of the thirst or hunger. In 2018, scores of horses were found dead near a dry watering hole in northern Arizona.

The captured horses end up being used by law enforcement groups such as the US Border Patrol. They also go to prison programs where they are trained for future use. And others are made available to the public adoption.

Suzanne Roy is Executive Director of the American Wild Horse Campaign. Roy described the government’s decision to control the horses while “giving a pass to livestock which have a greater “effect on public lands as” unhappy “.

Ranchers say they have made changes to reduce feeding their animals on federal lands. By bringing water to dry areas for their animals, they’ve also helped horses that drink it, Hunter Ihrman said. He is spokesperson for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Wild horses gather around a pond in Simpson Springs on July 14, 2021, near the US Army Dugway Proving Ground, Utah.  The horses from that herd were then rounded up when federal land managers increased the number of horses taken off the course during a historic drought.  (AP Photo / Rick Bowmer)

Wild horses gather around a pond in Simpson Springs on July 14, 2021, near the US Army Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. The horses from that herd were then rounded up when federal land managers increased the number of horses taken off the course during a historic drought. (AP Photo / Rick Bowmer)

But Messmer said that the number of head of cattle that grazed on public land is much greater than the number of wild horses. A key difference, however, is that ranching is part of the US economy.

“Americans love their McDonald’s burgers. They love their Big Macs. They love all of these things, and all of these things contain beef, ”he said.

Kathy DeGonia is President of Piceance Mustangs. DeGonia described the difficulty of the situation.

“In a perfect world, we would let all of these mustangs stay there until they died,” she said. “But there is simply not enough food and water to keep all the horses on the range. ”

I am John Russell.

Lindsay Whitehurst and James Anderson reported this story for The Associated Press. John Russell adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in this story

roundup — not. the act or process of herding animals (such as cattle) by circling around them in vehicles or on horses

graze – v. of an animal: eating grass or other plants that grow in a field, pasture, etc.

management – not. the act or process of deciding how to use something; the act or competence of controlling and making decisions concerning a company, a department, a sports team, etc.

preview – not. an understanding of the true nature of something

species — not. biology : a group of animals or plants that are similar and can produce young animals or plants

the thirst — not. an uncomfortable feeling caused by the need to drink something

adoption – not. the act or process of adopting someone or something:

livestock — not. farm animals (such as cows or pigs) that are kept, raised and used by humans

range — not. open land that animals (like cows and sheep) use for grazing and roaming

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