December 8, 2009

Mustangs Might Be Moving East, Federal Panel Says

The American mustang, the symbol of the Wild West, might be moving east.

The government is trying to roundup the wild horses on federal land and transport at least 25,000 mustangs and burros to the Midwest and East due to concerns that their large number will cause starvation for the animals.

The plan is racked with opposition from advocates, including Sheryl Crow, Bill Maher and Ed Harris, who say that the idea is inhumane and pointless. They add that the circumstances are not as futile as the government says.

"The Obama administration must craft a new policy that protects these animals and upholds the will of Congress and the public's desire to preserve this important part of our national heritage," said William Spriggs, lawyer for the group In Defense of Animals, to the ASsociated Press.

He and other advocates spoke at a hearing Monday reviewing the proposal, organized by a federal panel.

The government insists that the mustang population is so huge in number that the horses are almost without food, due to a large drought in the region.

"We are concerned about the numbers," Robin Lohse, chairwoman of the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, said at the hearing. "Time is not on our side."

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said they had to mull over the idea of destroying wild horses due to growing numbers. Instead, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the BLM would rather move 11,500 to 25,000 horses to pastures in the Midwest and East.

The specific destinations are still unclear, but Salazar thinks that Plains states are the most logical because of water and forage, said Don Glenn, chief of the BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Program.

The relocation plan continues a long feud over the wild horses. Ranchers see the wild horses as a threat to their land and could kill them until 1971, when it was made illegal.

The government had tried using a contraceptive vaccine to control the population, but doing so was too expensive and not practical.

One of the most adamant advocates is singer Sheryl Crow, who adopted a mustang and spoke directly to Salazar recently.

"One of the first things he said was something must be done because the horses are starving. We don't believe it," Crow said to The Associated Press.


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