Environment | Law | National

Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe plans roundup of horses

These horses were part of a controversial roundup in 2013. Photo by Laura Leigh / Wild Horse Education

The Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe is once again seeing controversy over a plan to gather domestic horses on and near the reservation.

The tribe is working with the U.S. Forest Service to round up as many as 2,000 horses that are illegally grazing on federal land adjacent to the reservation in Nevada and in Oregon. The animals are damaging the environment and using up water supplies in an time of severe drought.

This map shows the area surrounding the reservation where the horses will be removed. Image from Fort McDermitt Cooperative Domestic Horse Removal Project / USFS

"These are not wild horses," Chairman Tildon Smart told The Reno Gazette-Journal. "They are horses that are owned by tribal members that have just gotten out of control."

Critics, however, contend the tribe will end up removing federally protected wild horses. They are pushing the Forest Service to issue a full environmental impact statement in place of an environmental analysis.

"Gathered horses, including unbranded animals, were turned over to the tribe with no controls in 2013 and now this same pattern is being repeated," the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign said in written comments to the agency, the paper reported.

In 2013, the tribe rounded up more than 400 branded and unbranded horses that were put on the auction block. Animal rights groups said the unbranded horses were wild but a federal judge did not agree.

Tildon Smart. Photo from NMAI Blog

"I don't believe they do have the right to step in and try to change what we've decided to do," Smart told the paper. "We are our own nation. We are the lawmakers. We make all the rules based on what's best for our own people."

Wild horse management practices are highly controversial and tend to generate strong emotions. Some in Indian Country support roundups but others, including spiritual leaders, say the animals should be treated humanely and not sent to slaughter.

A bill to allow tribes and states to take over management of wild horses from the Bureau of Land Management failed to gain traction in the last session of Congress.

Get the Story:
Federal plan to gather tribal horses draws fire (The Reno Gazette-Journal 4/10)

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