The animal was listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2014, according to information provided by the Forest Service, due to habitat loss and fragmentation.
In 2016, the agency designated critical habitat, which includes streams and wetlands in parts of New Mexico, eastern Arizona and southern Colorado.
Approximately 7,713 acres of the Apache-Sitgreaves, Santa Fe and Lincoln National Forests are within the critical habitat, which is overlapped by 14 allotments.
Management actions are designed to ensure that public-lands ranching can continue in close proximity to the protected areas.
However, data for two of forests show that grazing occurs in the protected areas!
In Lincoln, three allotments covering 140,588 acres include 986 acres of critical habitat, but only 209 acres (21%) are off limits to livestock.
In Santa Fe, six allotments covering 180,212 acres contain 2,056 acres of critical habitat, with 615 acres (30%) inaccessible to livestock, at least in theory.
Figures for Apache-Sitgreaves were not provided.
The complaint brought by the Center for Biological Diversity may have been prompted in part by failures of livestock exclosures, barriers that keep large animals out.
If the fences were in good condition, horses would not be able to enter the protected areas either. But only a fraction of the protected areas are actually protected.
The fences can be repaired but the horses have to go, not to save an endangered species, but to protect big game and the most noble and deserving non-native species on America’s public lands, privately owned livestock.
And, as usual, the advocates, in offering to help the government get rid of the horses, come down on the wrong side of the issue.
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