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 have begun efforts to capture about 50% more horses than they originally planned this year on rangeland across the West because of severe drought conditions.

The emergency roundups that began Sunday and Monday target about 6,000 additional animals primarily in Nevada, Oregon and Colorado.

The Bureau of Land Management says the expanded effort concentrates on places where “chronic overpopulation” of the herds already has stretched the available food and water to its limits.

Horse protection advocates say the emergency roundups are being driven by pressure from ranchers who don’t want mustangs competing with their livestock for limited forage and water.

Wild Horse Education President Laura Leigh says she’s especially disappointed the Biden administration is continuing the failed polices of ex-President Trump and previous administrations that prioritized removal of horses without moving to reign in the number of cattle and sheep grazing on the same land.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says ranchers already have made voluntary changes to reduce grazing on federal lands during a drought that is “more pervasive and dramatic” than they’ve seen in years.

The bureau already has gathered 1,200 animals this year and originally intended to round-up about 12,000. The new effort would push the total to about 18,000.

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