Salt Lake City, Utah - Federal scientists and mostly rural interests are gathering at a conference in Utah this week to discuss the growing number of U.S.-protected wild horses roaming 10 Western states.
Mustang-protection advocates maintain the National Horse and Burro Summit is a thinly veiled effort to promote increased roundups and eventual slaughter of tens of thousands of animals from California to Colorado without any public input.
Utah officials, ranchers and even some federal officials have argued that swollen populations of wild horses, an icon of the American West, have created an expensive government problem of starving animals and damaged rangelands.
Horse-protection groups contend officials kowtowing to livestock interests won't look at solutions other than euthanizing mustangs.
Summit organizer and Utah State University Professor Terry Messmer says the event was put together by a broad coalition of horse advocates, not activists.