By THE CLOUD FOUNDATION
To The Desert Independent
August 25, 2018
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo – Yesterday, on August 24, The Cloud Foundation filed a request for a temporary restraining order to prevent the removal of 17 young Pryor wild horses living in the Pryor Wild Horse Range on the Montana-Wyoming border.
The Colorado-based nonprofit named for Cloud, a Pryor stallion documented throughout his life by TCF Director, Ginger Kathrens, wants the case against the Bureau of Land Management in Billings MT to be briefed before horses are removed. BLM has already altered the behavior of the horses by setting up baited traps in anticipation of a September 2nd start.
Genetic testing since the early 1990s has confirmed that the Pryor horses are rare descendants of New World “Spanish” breeds that were brought to this country in the early 1500s. Because of their rarity and the public’s fascination with these particular horses, BLM long ago committed itself to manage these horses “for a phenotype reminiscent of a Colonial Spanish Type horse in order to prevent the loss of Spanish characteristics. . .“
“Despite the uniqueness of this little herd and the real and present danger of losing the genetics that make them unique, BLM seems unwilling to limit the removal to only young animals who could be removed without permanent damage to the herd,” states Ginger Kathrens. “Despite conversations and in person meetings with both TCF and with the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center (PMWMC) that long served as advisors to BLM regarding the maintenance of rare genetics, BLM issued a decision record which includes the removal of horses representing genetic lines where only one horse would be left to carry on that line or, in one case, no reproducing horse would be left, thereby eliminating that line.
Genetics lost are genetics lost—there is no getting them back, according to Gus Cothran, renowned equine geneticist who has traced the herd since the early 1990s and has encouraged BLM to maintain a larger herd. Presently, there are 154 horses in the herd including only seven foals and five yearlings.
“The population is declining naturally,” states Kathrens. “The death rate is exceeding the birth rate so there is a very good case to be made for doing no removals at this time. However, we agree with the Pryor Mustang Center’s carefully scrutinized list of 6 young horses that could be removed without immediate damage to this rare herd. Despite this knowledge, BLM has ignored all of us.”
Statistics from both TCF and PMWMC show a declining population due to the use of PZP to limit births and an aging population with 20 horses over the age of 19. Last year just five foals survived and 2 of those are on the list to be removed. There are 6 surviving foals in 2018, one born just a few days ago.
“TCF believes that the BLM failed to consider the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of its decision on the genetic viability of the Pryor Herd, “ concludes Kathrens. “They should have prepared an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) that examined in detail which management practices would ensure the survival of this beloved Spanish Colonial herd.”
The increasing popularity of the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Herd has not gone unnoticed in the small towns near the horse herd, including David Peck, long-time editor of the Lovell Chronicle: “We urge the BLM to take a step back and delay the removal. . .and we urge the community leaders of Lovell to once again stand up and fight for the well-being of the Pryor Mountain mustangs, that rare jewel in our backyard beloved by people around the world.”
The Cloud Foundation is being represented by the Washington, DC public interest firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks.
The Cloud Foundation (TCF) is a Colorado based 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of wild horses and burros on our western public lands.