A Washington, DC judge took the side of American livestock producers this week with the rejection of unsupported claims from animal rights activists that the United States Forest Service(USFS) Wild Horse Management Plan would threaten the health and well-being of the wild horse population in the Modoc National Forest of Northeastern California.
The management plan seeks to reduce the population of the forest’s Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory, which is currently estimated to be 400 to 700 percent overpopulated, by reducing the number of horses to the Appropriate Management Level (AML) in the area and correcting any boundaries of the territory that currently house private property or other inappropriate USFS land. The size of the territory would decrease by approximately 40 square miles.
The plan was vehemently opposed by several animal rights groups, including the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and the Return to Freedom Horse Sanctuary, who argued that the solution lies in modifying the area’s livestock management plans.
Livestock producers and USFS have argued that reducing the herd populations falls in line with the requirement described in the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 that the agency provide a “thriving natural ecological balance.”
“Overpopulation of wild horses threatens not only the health of the range, but the livelihood of those that do properly manage the natural resources,” said Dustin Van Liew, Public Lands Council executive director. “The Judge saw directly through shortsighted arguments in the case and recognized the critical need to properly manage the exploding population of these horses and to take care of the land.”