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EPA Calls Wild Horses Pests

By Robert Winkler
The Desert Independent

May 11, 2012

Protect Mustangs, a wild horse preservation group, objects to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) categorizing indigenous wild horses as “pests” to approve a restricted-use pesticide, ZonaStat-H, for use on wild horses for birth control. The group maintains there is no scientific proof wild horses and burros are overpopulated on more than 26 million acres of public land and states that science proves wild equids heal the land reversing damage and desertification.

Today Protect Mustangs has asked the EPA to retract their wrongful categorization and halt the use of the drug. Besides the environmental hazards of using ZonaStat-H, the group is concerned the potentially dangerous pesticide could permanently sterilize and zero out the herds in the West.

“Americans across the country love wild horses,” explains Anne Novak executive director of Protect Mustangs. “We are outraged that the EPA would call our national icons 'pests' to push through an experimental contraceptive under a pesticide program!”

Under provisions of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, the EPA can consider nonhuman animals to be pests if they harm human or environmental health.

“This is an example of the government ignoring good science that proves wild horses heal the environment and create biodiversity at virtually no cost to the taxpayer, when left out on the range,” says Novak. “Vermin don’t repair the environment and reduce global warming but wild horses can.”

Public land grazing allotment holders might call free roaming wild horses a nuisance but they have an obvious conflict of interestthey want all the grazing and water rights for their livestock, etc. It appears they would like to eliminate the rights of the free roaming wild horses and burros. Protect Mustangs hopes the EPA will not buy into their game.

Pesticides used for wild horse and burro birth control would not end roundups because it would be difficult to dart wild horses in remote regions. Besides trapping in accessible herd management areas, cruel roundups will continue in order to administer the drug.

Protect Mustangs is concerned the pesticide will permanently sterilize America’s indigenous wild horses after multiple use or overdosing. ZonaStat-H, the EPA registered name for PZP-22 (porcine zona pellucida), GonaCon and other immunocontraceptives are risky.

After decades of research these contraceptives have not been approved for human use. China has been testing PZP for years but research shows damage to the ovaries so the drug remains in the test phase.

How many wild horses are already damaged and sterilized from receiving experimental PZP-22?

There is no proof wild horses are overpopulating on the range. Despite years of requests from members of the public and equine advocacy groups, the government refuses to make an accurate head count on public land. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been accused of inflating estimates to justify costly wild horse roundups and removalspaid for by the American taxpayer.

Indigenous wild horses do not reproduce like rabbitsmany die before the age of two. Life on the range can be hard and most wild horses never reach the age of 19. As a wildlife species, this is normal. Left alone, they will self-regulate as an integral piece of the ecosystem.

Recent scientific discoveries prove wild horses are native wildlife. The horse evolved here and must be respected as indigenous before they risk extinction at the hands of the American government.

Wild horses have natural predators such as mountain lions, bears and coyotes to name a few. BLM goes to great trouble to downplay the existence of predators to foster their overpopulation estimate-based myths.

“We ask the BLM and other government agencies to immediately stop using experimental drugs and risky EPA approved 'pesticides' for wild horse birth control,” states Novak. “Mustangs are a native heritage species that heal the land and must be saved in genetically viable herds.”

Novak continues by explaining, “we want the EPA to apologize for classifying American wild horses as 'pests', acknowledge the classification error and cancel approval of ZonaStat-H and any other pesticides for mustangs.”

Wild horses heal the environment. Free roaming mustangs repair over-grazed land for sustainable livestock use. America’s indigenous horses create biodiversity for the ecosystem as a whole.

Two Princeton studies prove wild herds repair the land as seen in Wildlife and cows can be partners, not enemies in search for food.

The first study, "Facilitation Between Bovids and Equids on an African Savanna," was published in Evolutionary Ecology Research in August 2011, and supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Keller Family Trust and Wageningen University, the Netherlands.

The second study, "African Wild Ungulates Compete With or Facilitate Cattle Depending on Season," was published in Science on Sept. 23, 2011, and supported by grants from the National Geographic Society, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the International Foundation for Science.

The Savory Institute, a proponent of holistic management, states wild herds heal overgrazed grassland and uses livestock to mimic wild herds to bring the land back to life.

In the 1900s there were two million wild horses roaming freely in America. Today there are only close to 40,000 captured mustangs living in feedlot settingsfunded by tax dollars. Due to the government's zealous roundups and removals, less than 19,000 wild horses roam freely in all the western states combined. The BLM is caving into corporate pressure from the livestock, energy, water and mining industries who don't want to share public land with America’s indigenous wild horses.

 “By classifying our wild horses as ‘pests’ the EPA is fostering the dangerous belief that wild horses are a nuisance, something destructive that needs to be wiped out,” says Vivian Grant, President of Int’l Fund for Horses. “We call on the EPA to correct this categorization of the American mustang now.”

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