Wild-horse activists kicked out of federal meeting in Nevada

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RENO, Nev. (AP) — Two employees of an international animal protection organization were escorted by police from a public meeting in northern Nevada after disrupting it to protest the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's handling of wild horses.

Edita Birnkrant and Nicole Rivard of Friends of Animals were threatened with arrest before also being thrown out of their rooms at a Minden hotel-casino, where the meeting was held Thursday evening.

More than 100 people attended the Bureau of Land Management's meeting on the draft long-range management plan for 4.8 million acres of public land in its Carson City District.

Darien, Connecticut-based Friends of Animals opposes the plan, saying it would decrease mustang herd areas from 1.2 million acres to 1.07 million acres while allowing continued livestock grazing on 4.8 million acres. The group also criticized the federal agency for barring public comment at the meeting.

After an agency official gave a brief presentation about the plan, Birnkrant grabbed the microphone, displayed a yellow strip of crime scene tape and shouted that the agency and ranchers have committed "crimes against wild horses."

"The BLM is managing wild horses into extinction through roundups and (the fertility-control drug) PZP, and we are outraged," she said as Rivard videotaped the episode.

The microphone was turned off after about a minute, but Birnkrant walked around the room while yelling and carrying a banner reading, "Stop the BLM's Criminal Reign of Terror, Protect Wild Horses Under the Endangered Species Act."

Birnkrant and Rivard then were escorted out of the room by sheriff's deputies and Carson Valley Inn (CVI) security personnel, Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini said.

"The CVI interacted and told this person (Birnkrant), 'This is our business and you're disturbing others and we're asking you to leave,' " Pierini told The Associated Press. "They convinced her that there were not a whole lot of options or they'll put her under arrest."

The meeting was intended to inform the public about the plan, and the agency is accepting written comments on it through March 27, Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Lisa Ross said. The meeting featured various stations where bureau officials answered questions about the plan's impact on recreation, grazing, wild horses and other resources.

"It was not appropriate for her to go up to the mic and do what she did because the meeting was in a workshop format and was not a public hearing," Ross said.

Ross defended the agency's ongoing program of removing wild horses from the range in the West, saying it benefits both the animals and their habitat. "Bureau-wide, the population of horses is double the appropriate management level, and even more than that in the state of Nevada," she said.

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