The Bureau of Land Management plans to test a controversial sterilization method on wild mares in Utah that's a key part of a herd-reduction strategy the agency is trying to implement. The agency's strategy incorporates much of the 10 Years to AML agenda, which calls for the mass round-up of wild horses and a "panoply" of fertility control methods. The sterilization technique proposed for the Utah herd is called ovariectomy via colpotomy, which involves removing the ovaries from mares. BLM has stepped up efforts, particularly in the past six months, to round up wild horses and to test longer-range fertility control methods.
In a decision record issued this week, BLM approved a plan to round up as many as 590 wild horses from the Confusion Herd Management Area in Utah. The 235,000-acre HMA has about 661 wild horses, and BLM wants to bring that number down to within the so-called appropriate management level of about 70 animals. The first of what could be several wild horse "gathers" could start next month.
Michael Gates, acting manager of BLM's West Desert District in Utah, wrote in his decision record that previous research has shown "strong evidence that this method can be used by BLM in wild horse management, with an acceptable level of safety for people and treated horses." Without the use of sterilization, Gates added, BLM would likely need to remove wild horses from the Confusion HMA "every 3 to 5 years" to keep populations under control. Challenges to the plan can be filed to the Interior Board of Land Appeals—and appeals are likely.
Most advocacy groups and a number of congressional Democrats, including House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, favor expanding the use of porcine zona pellucida, or PZP. While effective, the vaccine renders mares infertile for about a year.
This will mark the fourth time in the past decade that BLM has attempted to test ovariectomy via colpotomy, dating back to the Obama administration. Each time, lawsuits from advocates have prompted BLM to stop the research or walk away from it.
Source: E&E News
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