RENO, Nev. (AP) — Despite the protests of a rural county rancher, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has returned some 160 wild horses to the range in central Nevada.
The agency returned the horses to the Fish Creek Herd Management Area near Eureka on Tuesday after being cleared to do so by the Interior Board of Land Appeals.
The BLM originally had planned to return some 100 mares treated with a fertility control vaccine and 80 studs to the HMA on Feb. 20. They were among 424 horses removed from the HMA during a roundup that ended earlier in February.
Eureka County commissioners and rancher Kevin Borba filed an appeal with the Interior Board of Land Appeals to block the return of any of the 424 horses to the range and to challenge the BLM’s assessment of how many horses the HMA can support.
But the board affirmed the BLM’s authority to return 162 of the horses to the range. Arguments in the case continue on the underlying claims.
Horse advocates praised the BLM’s return of the horses to the range, saying it’s in line with recommendations released in 2013 by a National Academy of Sciences panel calling for increased emphasis on fertility control to keep horse numbers down.
Borba has said he thinks the fertility control vaccine is far less effective than the BLM and horse advocates claim, and horse numbers will further explode as a result. Ranchers view wild horses as competition for scare forage in the arid West.