Wild horses gather in a canyon north of Grand Junction in this May, 1, 2006, file photo. (William Woody, Special to The Colorado Sun)

By Scott Sonner, The Associated Press

RENO, Nev. — Federal land managers say they’re tightening protections to guard against illegal resale of adopted wild horses captured on U.S. public land for slaughter, but mustang advocates say the government needs to do more, including ending $1,000 incentive payments to adopters.

Nada Wolff Culver, the Bureau of Land Management’s deputy director for programs, said in announcing the changes the agency is committed to the health and safety of adopted wild horses and burros.

“We will begin to make additional compliance visits post-adoption, bring more scrutiny to potential adopters, and increase warnings to sale barns about the risks of illegally selling wild horses and burros, among other steps,” she said Monday.

Horse protection advocates said resales for slaughter they’ve documented for nearly a decade won’t stop until the agency ends the $1,000 cash payments it started offering in recent years to try to jump-start lagging demand at overstocked holding pens.

The bureau estimates there are about 86,000 horses and burros on the range in 10 western states, about half of those in Nevada. It claims that’s three times as many as the public lands can ecologically sustain — something horse advocates dispute.

About 50,000 animals are in long- and short-term holding facilities.

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