By SCOTT SONNER
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The FBI said Wednesday that it was reviewing a Las Vegas woman’s claim that U.S. land managers broke a federal law protecting wild horses when they removed nearly 2,000 wild horses from public rangeland in Nevada.
FBI Special Agent Joseph Dickey confirmed that his Las Vegas office received a formal request this week for an investigation from Cindy MacDonald, a horse protection advocate who has challenged roundups before.
MacDonald says the U.S. Bureau of Land Management gathered far more horses than allowed during a roundup six months ago in the Calico mountains about 200 miles north of Reno.
“I can confirm she did report that information,” Dickey said. “As with all complaints the FBI receives, we take them all seriously.”
He added: “We are evaluating her information and will make a decision in the coming days whether there is enough predication to open an investigation, whether we have jurisdiction, those kinds of questions.”
MacDonald wants the FBI to investigate and block the BLM from selling or transporting any of the horses from temporary holding pens in Nevada until BLM officials verify they left behind enough horses to sustain the wild herd.
She and other horse protection groups point to recent independent observations in the Calico mountains that suggest there remain nowhere near the 600 to 900 horses the BLM said it intended to leave there.
BLM officials say they are in compliance with the law. They teamed up with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week to conduct a weeklong aerial review of the area along with a new census on the ground to get an update on the size of the herd.
The census results are expected next week, although further analysis is planned by the U.S. Geological Survey, said Heather Emmons, a BLM spokeswoman in Reno.
BLM spokesman Tom Gorey in Washington has said agency officials would be happy to cooperate with any inquiry from the FBI about the roundups. The program is intended to reduce what they consider an overpopulation of wild horses that is harming not only the environmental health of the range and wildlife species, but the horses themselves, he said.
The BLM estimates there are 38,400 wild horses and burros in 10 Western states, about 12,000 more than the legally “appropriate management level,” Gorey said.
The BLM removed 1,922 horses from the range around the Calico mountains between December and February. Initially, all of them were transported to a temporary holding facility near Fallon, although about 100 died either as a result of the gather operation or after they arrived at the holding pens.
Emmons said about 150 horses have been transferred elsewhere, including 110 that were shipped to a larger BLM coral in Palomino Valley north of Reno in conjunction with the BLM’s plans to make the animals available for adoption via the Internet on July 14.
Eighteen horses have been sent to Carson City for use in a prison inmate training program, Emmons said. Twenty-five were shipped for adoption in Great Falls, Mont., and some of those that were not adopted have since been transferred to a facility in Salt Lake City for another attempt at adoption, she said.
The fate of the rest will be determined between July and November, with roughly half likely to be offered for adoption and half shipped to long-term corals and pastures, mostly in the Midwest.
MacDonald said the agency should not be allowed to transport any of the horses across state line until the FBI investigates.
“The public needs to be sure the BLM followed the law before those horses are shipped out,” she said.
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal
Posted by Kaci Switzer