Hundreds of hungry wild horses have taken over and are destroying ‘rare’ federal land, lawsuit says

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Ok here’s what Law & Crime have to say

A coalition of conservationists, environmentalists and birders have sued the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), claiming that hundreds of wild horses are destroying Tonto National Forest in Arizona near the Salt River and putting thousands of endangered species at risk.

According to the lawsuit, there are currently about 600 horses roaming free in an area that can only sustain about 40 horses. The primary problem, the plaintiffs say, is overgrazing — a problem created when the USFS made an agreement in February with the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group, which dictates how the horse herd in the region is managed.

The plaintiffs — the Center for Biological Diversity, Maricopa Audubon Society, Arizona Wildlife Federation, Arizona Deer Association, Arizona Bighorn Sheep Society, and Arizona Sportsmen for Conservation — allege that the USFS violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to consider the environmental impact of the February agreement. Because the area is one of the “rare riparian areas” in the American southwest, the plaintiffs say, protecting its ecosystem is of paramount importance.

But because of the land’s limitations, horses are are increasingly concentrated in smaller areas by artificial feeding in order to stave off mass starvation, the complaint says. As a result, the horses now associate people with food — and approach them accordingly.

“Overgrazing by the horse population has led to, and continues to cause, severe deterioration of the area,” the complaint says.

The complaint also says the agreement doesn’t include provisions for protecting species such as javelina, Gambel’s quail, mule deer, Yuma clapper rail, and bald eagles, despite the USFS having acknowledged the need to do so.

The February plan was approved by the USFS and the State of Arizona and was preceded by a 2017 agreement between the Arizona Department of Agriculture and the Tonto National Forest.

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Hundreds of hungry wild horses have taken over and are destroying ‘rare’ federal land, lawsuit says