The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined to put wild horses breeding on federal lands on the “endangered” species list. The proposal was launched last summer by a couple of conservationist groups concerned that the beautiful animals may go extinct.
Last year, the Cloud Foundation and Friends of Animals filed a petition with the federal wildlife service requesting protection under the Endangered Species Act for mustangs that live across 10 Western states.
The groups said that wild horses were a totally different species from the domesticated ones and needed separate protection. Conservationists also argued that the animals had evolved as a native species over the course of millennia, distinguishing themselves from other horses.
But after a 3-month study, the Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that those horses are just horses. The agency argued that it found no “behavioral differences” between wild, or feral, horses in North America and domesticated horses. And without those differences no protection can be granted, the agency noted Tuesday.
But conservationists added that the habitat of wild horses is 40 percent smaller since Nixon presidency. In 1971, President Nixon signed off the Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act. According to the two groups, the North American wild horse is a native species that temporarily went extinct about 13,000 years ago. Thousands of years later Spanish colonists reintroduced the animals to American grounds.
But this stance is at odds with the Bureau of Land Management’s position. BLM clings to its opinion that wild horses are not native species. The agency argues that the fiery animals are the descendants of domestic horses that were brought to the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries by Spanish conquistadors. Additionally, other “wild” horses are former domestic horses that had escaped captivity, BLM added.
Denver-based Friends of Animals said that they were disappointed with the decision.
“These horses are different, they are treated different under the law, they behave differently and there’s some evidence they are genetically different,”
said Jennifer Barnes, the group’s attorney.
Ms. Barnes said that the group plans to gather more evidence before making another attempt to prevent more mustang roundups from the BLM.
BLM pledged that it would continue its efforts of keeping healthy wild horse herds on the federal lands. It declined, however, to comment on the recent federal decision.
The Public Lands Council and the Nevada Cattlemen’s Assn. were among the groups that had fiercely opposed the listing. The council argued that granting the horses protection under the Endangered Species Act, which is designed only for not domesticated animals, would only demonstrate how “damaging” the statute is.
Image Source: NY Post