I-Team: Headway Made at Wild Horse Summit - 8 News NOW

George Knapp, Chief Investigative Reporter

I-Team: Headway Made at Wild Horse Summit

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Back then, the horses were down to only 60,000 animals on the range. Today, it's less than half as many, with more horses in government pens than on public lands. Back then, the horses were down to only 60,000 animals on the range. Today, it's less than half as many, with more horses in government pens than on public lands.
"At the rate the government is reducing these animals, within five years they will be extinct. Within five years they will cease to exist on public lands," said wild horse advocate Karen Sussman. "At the rate the government is reducing these animals, within five years they will be extinct. Within five years they will cease to exist on public lands," said wild horse advocate Karen Sussman.

America's wild horse herds could be wiped out within five years according to range scientists and horse advocates.

At a first-of-its-kind horse summit this weekend, experts declared that the only way for wild horses to survive on public lands is for the BLM to change the direction of its management program.

"At the rate the government is reducing these animals, within five years they will be extinct. Within five years they will cease to exist on public lands," said wild horse advocate Karen Sussman.

Nevada's Wild Horses and Burros: Adopt & Protect

As president of the nation's oldest wild horse advocacy group, Karen Sussman has worked tirelessly to protect the herds on public lands. She says the situation today is the worst since the wild horse act became law in 1971.

Back then, the horses were down to only 60,000 animals on the range. Today, it's less than half as many, with more horses in government pens than on public lands.

The wild horse summit held this weekend in Las Vegas heard from many of the best known horse experts in the world, along with range scientists. The consensus opinion is that horses are being systematically eliminated from public lands through relentless roundups authorized by the BLM.

There is a wild horse adoption event coming this weekend. Horses up for adoption can be viewed online. Call (866) 4MUSTANGS for more information.

It's not just the sheer number of captured horses, it's that the ones left behind are not genetically viable.

"More than 20-percent of the herds are in danger right now genetically, according to the leading equine geneticist in the world," said Sussman.

Scientists now believe the roundups are so disruptive to the social order of horse families that they are a main cause of excessive breeding on the range -- the horses are breeding more to try and save themselves.

Who is Responsible

There was one pleasant surprise at the horse summit -- the BLM showed up and joined the discussion.

On Saturday, an announcement was made that the roundups would stop for the time being. But hours later, another BLM official said another 7,500 could be gathered soon.

Former BLM range scientist Craig Downer alleges the BLM has no scientific basis for its roundups; it just makes things up as it goes along, "It's just being dictated by their agenda, which is to minimize or eliminate wild horses and burros wherever they can."

Horse advocates say they will go to Congress to ask for help by stopping all roundups, ending plans to euthanize the 30,000 horses now being held and return the captive horses to the management areas set aside by law for horses.

19 million acres of horse land has been taken away and, they allege, turned over to cattle interests instead. BLM says it can't afford $26 million a year to feed the horses, yet it spends half a billion a year to subsidize cattle on public land.

Sussman and others hint that legal action might be coming since BLM has justified recent horse gathers by calling them emergency operations, when no such emergency exists.

"We will ask that they be restored where they were illegally removed," she said. "This is our American heritage here. These represent the last living symbol of the American west."

One plan discussed this weekend is a proposal by philanthropist Madeline Pickens, wife of oil man T. Boone Pickens, to create a vast horse sanctuary in northern Nevada -- a place that could become home to many of the horses now being held in government corrals.

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