In spite of the fact that American Wild Horses are considered a protected animal by the American government, the Oklahoma Land and Timber Company has been given permission to plant trees for harvesting. To facilitate the growth of this "crop" they need to eliminate all ground cover and foliage that might compete with the trees. The company had signed a contract allowing for a two year waiting period to give the herd a chance to be relocated, but has since reneged and begun spraying the area with pesticides.
The company has given Bryant Rickman of the Medicine Springs Ranch, who manages the herd, until February 29th to remove them from the area. But where can you find room for 150 wild horses to run free anymore? The situation in Blackjack Mountain is a reflection of what faces the wild horse population across the United States as the animals are being squeezed off public land set aside for them by the very agency meant to be protecting them - the Bureau of Land Management.
In 1971, when Congress and Richard Nixon responded to public pressure and enacted the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was made responsible for the welfare of the remaining wild herds and ensuring that their populations were maintained at current levels. At the time, the BLM claimed there were only 17,000 animals living in the wild. What this claim was based on is unknown, as they didn't conduct a census of the wild horse population until three years later. The results of that first head count showed them to be off by more than 150%, as the actual total was 42,000.
While the law says that American Wild Horses are a protected species and public lands must be made available to them as sanctuaries for them to range free, less than half the actual population has been given that protection. In its wisdom, instead of amending the original 17,000 figure when they discovered how wrong it was, the BLM decided that the excess horses needed to be "removed" from public lands. The people who were responsible for preserving the horses have instead managed to reduce their population by around 50% since the protective law was enacted.