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Tell the BLM in Billings, Montana that population size matters! Join our rally June 4th

April 16, 2015 | wild horses

1. Please submit comments against the BLM's plan to roundup and remove 30 "excess" horses on public lands. The deadline is April 24th and they can be addressed to: Jim Sparks, BLM Field Office, 5001 Southgate Dr., Billings, MT 59101; faxed to 406.896-5281; or emailed to jsparks@blm.gov and jbybee@blm.gov 

2. Join our rally in Billings, MT on June 4th outside the BLM office at 5001, Southgate Dr.  We will be gathering at 10:30 AM to protest the BLM's abuse of wild horses on public lands. 


A measly 170 wild horses (probably less considering that’s a BLM number) call the Pryor Mountain Range—along the Montana-Wyoming border—home, yet the Bureau of Land Management is once again proposing to roundup and remove 30 excess horses between the ages of 1 and 3 from that Herd Management Area (HMA). 

Friends of Animals is sickened by this news and is urging supporters to submit written comments to Jim Sparks, field manager of the BLM’s Billings, Montana Field Office. The deadline for submitting comments is April 24, and they can be addressed to him at 5001, Southgate Dr., Billings, MT 59101; faxed to 406.896-5281; or emailed to jsparks@blm.gov and jbybee@blm.gov 

Sparks needs to recognize that the Pryor Mountain wild horse population is already at genetic risk and removing these 30 horses between 1 and 3 years of age will cause further decline in genetic vigor. Tell him to put a moratorium on roundups and PZP administration as both are contributing to the dysfunction of this precious herd. Even the BLM recognizes the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range is unique in both its setting and for the wild horses that inhabit it.  Many of the horses have primitive striping on their backs, withers and legs, and are reputed to be descendants of "colonial" Spanish horses.

FoA’s legal petition to get wild horses protected under the Endangered Species Act states that population size matters; small populations are more likely to go extinct as a result of chance effects—known as the small population paradigm. The current populations of America’s wild horses are spread out in many small fragmented herds. In determining the threat of extinction, it is necessary to consider the population of these individual herd sizes rather than the just the total population number because unless there is gene flow between herds, inbreeding in individual herds is inevitable and will result in lower genetic diversity and individual fitness. It has been known for a long time that inbreeding depression in small, isolated populations could lead to loss of fitness and increased risk of extinction. It is highly possible that a change in environment or one stochastic event could cause extinction of wild horse on U.S. public lands given their small fragmented population.

Studies suggest that population size of 5,000 may be necessary to ensure maintenance of fitness. The Equid Specialist Group of IUCN Species Survival Commission recommends minimum populations of 2,500 individuals for the conservation of genetic diversity.

No single HMA has a minimal viable population size for the long term—2,500-5,000 animals. Moreover, of the remaining HMAs throughout the West, 130 (72%) have Appropriate Management Levels (“AMLs”) of less than 150 and many of these are much less than 100, even numbering in the teens.  Scientist have warned that “populations managed with a target size of fewer than 500 horses were at some risk of losing more than 90% of selective neutral genetic variation over a long period of 200 years.”

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal  revealed that the wild horses living in the Outer Banks of North Carolina—their population has dropped from 6,000 to fewer than 100 because of development in the area—have become severely inbred. Debilitating birth defects are common—many newborns don’t survive—and it’s getting worse.

The irresponsibility of the BLM in Billings, Montana, is putting the Pryor Mountain Horse Range in jeopardy and it is crucial to stop the BLM in its tracks. The Montana BLM has already zeroed out six of seven wild horse Herd Areas, and only preserved these few horses here due to ferocious opposition to their zeroing out the Pryor Mountain wild horses. We need to continue this ferocious opposition and provide the BLM with better alternatives to its mismanagement.

One solution the BLM has ignored as it wages war against Montana’s wild horses is to have cooperative agreements with Custer National Forest and McCullough National Recreation Area under Section 6 of the Wild Horse and Burro Act to increase the habitat of the wild horses here and their population level. 

 

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