Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s take on controversial wild horse roundup

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The federal Bureau of Land Management’s controversial roundup of approximately 2,500 wild horses in Nevada has been met with protest from outraged animal advocates who argue that the measure is cruel and unnecessary. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar explains his position on the mustang dilemma in The Times’ Opinion section today; here’s an excerpt:

Since Spanish conquistadors brought horses to the American continent four centuries ago, the majestic animals that once roamed wild on our nation’s great prairies have endured dramatic changes in the American landscape. The grasslands of the Midwest gave way to farms. Barbed-wire fences closed the ranges of Texas. Western cities grew and suburbs sprawled.


Having lost much of their range, wild horses teetered on the verge of disappearing in the 1960s, prompting Congress to pass the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, which established new federal protections for the animals. Over the last four decades, the Bureau of Land Management has helped wild horses thrive and populations recover on the arid expanses of public lands in the West.

Though an American icon is again flourishing, the job of restoring the health of wild horse herds is far from complete.

Without natural predators, wild horse populations have grown beyond the carrying capacity of the sensitive and sparse lands on which they live, causing damage to ecosystems and putting them at risk of starvation. As a result, federal managers must move thousands of wild horses each year off the range to pastures and corrals, where they are fed, cared for and put up for adoption.

The current situation is unsustainable.