August 18 2021
By LINDSAY WHITEHURST and JAMES ANDERSON
TOOELE, Utah (AP) — The sound of the helicopter propeller thundered across the horizon as it dipped down toward mustangs dotting the golden brown plain. The horses burst into a gallop at the machine’s approach, their high-pitched whinnies rising into the dry air.
That helicopter roundup in the mountains of western Utah removed hundreds of free-roaming wild horses, shortly before the Biden administration announced it would sharply increase the number of mustangs removed across the region. It’s an emergency step land managers say is essential to preserving the ecosystem and the horses as a megadrought worsened by climate change grips the region.
“What were seeing here in the West gives some insight into a new norm,” Terry Messmer, a professor at Utah State University who studies wild horse management.
The removals are adding fuel to longstanding conflicts with activists for the animals whose beauty and power make them an enduring emblem of the American West. They say the U.S. government is using the drought as an excuse to take out horses in favor of cattle grazing...