For Immediate Release
May 10, 2016
Mike Harris, director, Wildlife Law Program; 720.949.7791;
Jennifer Best, associate director, Wildlife Law Program 720.949.7791;

(NEVADA) Because of pressure from Friends of Animals and the threat of legal action, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has revoked its April 3, 2014 Decision Record for its misguided Fish Springs Wild Horses PZP Pilot Project. This decision had authorized a public-private partnership with the Pine Nut Wild Horse Advocates to forcibly drug mares of the beloved Pine Nut Herd with the fertility control pesticide PZP.

When FoA learned the project was underway, it sprang into action because the project suffered the same legal deficiencies Judge Larry R. Hicks’ found last year with the agency’s 2014 removal and fertility control plan.

“We are extremely happy to have put a stop to the forced drugging of Pine Nut mares with the fertility control pesticide PZP for a second time,” said FoA President Priscilla Feral. “Still, it is appalling that BLM would go to such efforts to not only avoid compliance with the law, but to hide from the public that PZP has long-term, negative impacts to the lives of wild horses.”

“There are so many problems with BLM’s decision to recommence the 2014 Pilot Project that it is difficult to know where to start,” said Michael Harris, FoA’s Wildlife Law Program director.

Most importantly, Harris says, the decision to arm local landowners with long rifles and PZP-filled darts to go after Pine Nut mares who might wander from the designated Herd Management Area onto private lands near Fish Springs directly conflicts with a 2015 court decision aimed at limiting management actions directed at the Pine Nut wild horses until BLM complies with federal law.

That decision was issued in February 2015 in an action brought by FoA challenging BLM’s Dec. 19, 2014 decision to round-up and remove approximately 332 Pine Nut wild horses and to PZP all mares one-year of age and older.

In forbidding BLM’s implementation of this plan, federal district judge Larry R. Hicks found that BLM’s decision to permanently remove the horses and to implement fertility dosing was made without conducting an adequate analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act. Shortly, after Judge Hick’s decision, BLM voluntarily withdrew its 2014 management plan.

FoA was poised to file a second lawsuit this week if BLM did not immediately put an end to the darting of wild horses in or near Fish Springs. Between Jan. 1 and April 30, 2016, upwards of 15 mares were darted under this project, and in late April 2016 BLM even held a public meeting to solicit more landowners to arm to forcibly drug wild horses.

Harris pointed out that arming private landowners with rifles to dart mares seems like a direct violation of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, which prohibits landowners from intentionally harassing wild horses who wander onto their land. Under the Act, the only recourse for a landowner is to request that BLM take the horses back onto federal land.

Also there is growing scientific research that shows PZP can have long lasting physical, behavioral and social impacts to wild horses. In particular, mares that cannot get pregnant due to PZP will choose to leave their bands, creating instability that effects the health of all of the group members. Moreover, PZP can extend reproductive cycling beyond the normal breeding season, resulting in foal births at times of the year where available food resources are inadequate to support the newborn life. Also studies show PZP is not completely reversible after prolonged use.

“It now looks as if BLM’s withdrawing its 2014 management plan involving a roundup and PZP, was somewhat disingenuous,” Harris said. “True, BLM has not implemented the roundup, or drugged any mares on public lands. Instead, they dusted off an even older plan—the Fish Springs PZP Pilot Program—in an attempt to drug the Pine Nut mares without complying with the court decision or NEPA.”