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Wild horses: Congress honors one stallion, but state lawmakers want to thin herds

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Lawmakers can't make up their minds about America's wild horses. While one congressman recently introduced a resolution celebrating the birthday of a stallion made famous by a Colorado filmmaker, the state's own legislature has declared its opposition to any expansion of range for the iconic, imperiled or overpopulated (take your pick) mustangs.

Representative Raul Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona and enviros' choice for the Secretary of the Interior job that ended up going to Colorado's Ken Salazar, submitted a resolution to the U.S. House of Representatives over the weekend recognizing the sixteenth birthday of Cloud the Stallion, who "serves as the ambassador and emblem of wild horses and burros living free and protected on public lands."

Cloud has been the subject of three PBS documentaries by Ginger Kathrens, who's documented his high-country Montana life since birth and heads up the Colorado Springs-based Cloud Foundation. But his herd has been devastated by Bureau of Land Management roundups over the years, and his biographer credits intense public opposition to the BLM's management plan for his continuing freedom.

"Cloud is a survivor," Kathrens declared in a prepared statement in response to the resolution. "He's endured brutal winters, intense predation, three helicopter roundups, bait trapping, injuries, and the loss of many family members. To this day he remains one of the dominant stallions on the Pryor Mountains in southern Montana."

But while Grijalva's resolution appears to be part of a general turn against BLM policy by federal lawmakers -- signaled by a funding cut earlier this year -- the Colorado General Assembly hasn't joined in the rebuke. Instead, state lawmakers passed a joint resolution this session supporting the BLM, opposing any expansion of the herds' limited range in Colorado or "the creation of any wild horse preserves on public lands in Colorado," and recognizing "the knowledge and experience of local ranchers who are good stewards of the land and natural environment."

Good thing Cloud doesn't live in Colorado.

BLM officials maintain that the herds' numbers across the West exceed the land's ability to support them. But that assertion has been challenged repeatedly by horse activists, who contend that the BLM is intent on eradicating entire herds and has used inhumane methods to gather the animals and keep them in costly and inadequate holding pens or private pastures. There are currently more horses "in custody" of BLM and its contractors than there are left in the wild.

More from our News archive: "Wild horses: Front Range Equine Rescue muzzled at horse show over graphic photos."

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