By Marina Starleaf Riker

The Bulletin

Bureau of Land Management officials say they won’t go through with a plan to experiment with sterilization methods on about 200 wild horses in Oregon.

On Friday, the BLM said it won’t move forward with research efforts at Oregon’s Wild Horse Corral Facility in Hines because of legal battles. The agency said it will still work to find new tools to ensure horses and rangelands are healthy.

The BLM’s decision comes after three appeals to a U.S. Department of the Interior appeals board and a federal lawsuit were filed to stop the sterilizations. On Friday, before the appeals board could make a decision, the BLM filed paperwork to vacate the case, according to the board.

“What that means in lay terms is they’re not going to do what they said they were going to do,” said Bruce Wagman, attorney for Front Range Equine Rescue, a group against the sterilizations. “The actions that we thought were so offensive and illegal are not going forward, so we’re happy.”

The BLM’s plan called for the sterilization of about 200 mares — some of which are pregnant — through three different methods to figure out which ones could be used safely on wild horses in the future. In one of the methods, a veterinarian would have been tasked sedating a mare — although not completely — and then severing and pulling out the horse’s ovaries. The other two procedures were less invasive and used endoscopes and lasers to cut the fallopian tube so eggs couldn’t pass through and be fertilized.

“The BLM’s withdrawal of its invasive sterilization experiments reveals, more than anything else, that the agency knows the public will not accept these inhumane sterilization practices,” said Nick Lawton, an attorney for The Cloud Foundation and the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, which filed a lawsuit to allow them to video the sterilizations.

There are about 67,000 wild horses and burros on public lands in 10 Western states — twice what the agency considers healthy for the animals and rangeland resources, according to the BLM. The agency also has 46,000 unadopted wild horses and burros it cares for in off-range pastures and corral facilities.

­— Reporter: 541-633-2160, mriker@bendbulletin.com

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