BLM Refuses Expert Offer for Humane Alternative to Dangerous Helicopter Roundup In Jackson Mountains, Nevada

Reno, NV – Despite the offer of experts to assist the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to provide a humane alternative, and under the guise of an “emergency,” the agency announced today that it will launch a helicopter roundup tomorrow in the Jackson Mountains Herd Management Area (HMA) in northwestern Nevada. The action violates the agency’s own policy prohibiting the helicopter stampede of wild horses during peak foaling season (March 1 – June 30) and fails to meet the agency’s own criteria for an “emergency” situation.

This tiny mare and foal are among the horses who will be stampeded by helicopter beginning tomorrow in Nevada.

This morning, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) joined by The Cloud Foundation, sent an urgent letter to the BLM informing the agency of the immediate availability of an expert in bait/water trapping who works with the U.S. Forest Service who can assess the Jackson Mountains situation and begin bait/water trapping in the area.

June is the height of foaling season, and the BLM’s decision means that BLM-contracted helicopters will be stampeding tiny foals, heavily pregnant mares and other horses who may already be compromised from lack of adequate water and forage with helicopters for untold miles over rugged terrain in high summer desert temperatures.

BLM has not done due diligence in evaluating less dangerous alternatives to a helicopter drive in the middle of foaling season. In fact, the agency could have been water/bait trapping for the last month, in order to avoid a helicopter stampede.

“The BLM’s decision to subject tiny foals, pregnant mares and already compromised horses to the trauma of a helicopter stampede without even attempting a safer and more humane clearly demonstrates the BLM’s callous disregard for the well-being of these federally-protected animals,” said Deniz Bolbol, communications director of the AWHPC.

The letter highlights that, "...it would be the height of irresponsibility for the BLM to proceed with a helicopter roundup and stampede in Jackson Mountains during peak foaling season, in an area where horses may already be stressed from lack of water and forage..."

BLM policy prohibits helicopter roundups during peak foaling season:

The capture of wild horses by using a helicopter to herd the animals is prohibited during the foaling period, which is defined as six weeks on either side of the peakof foaling to assure that young foals are mature enough to be able to remain with their band during gather activities. This period is generally March 1 to June 30 for most wild horse herds…" (BLM Wild Horse and Burro Management Handbook, June 2010)

However, the agency is moving forward under the guise of an “emergency,” but the situation in Jackson Mountains HMA does not meet the BLM’s own criteria for an emergency:

“Emergencies generally are unexpected events that threaten the health and welfare of a WH&B population and/or their habitat. Examples of emergencies include fire, insect infestation, disease, or other events of a catastrophic and unanticipated nature. alternative means or procedures to comply with NEPA.” (BLM Wild Horse and Burro Management Handbook, June 2010)

In fact, the EA for the roundup plan stated specifically that the situation was not an emergency.

“We’re calling on BLM to halt all plans to conduct a dangerous and cruel helicopter roundup in Jackson Mountains and to instead immediately call on the available expertise to implement a humane capture alternative that would involve the humane use of water and bait traps,” Bolbol concluded.

The BLM plans to use helicopters to roundup 630 horses from an estimated population of 930 horses (including 738 adults and 96 foals who were counted in April 2012) in the Jackson Mountains area. The capture operation will encompass over 775,000 acres – of which 286,000 acres are within the Jackson Mountains HMA.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 50 horse advocacies, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come.