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    Agency seeks compassion for horses

    RENO, Nev. — The US Bureau of Land Management is issuing new policy directives emphasizing ‘‘compassion and concern’’ for wild horses on federal lands in the West, in response to a growing public outcry about alleged abuse during roundups of thousands of mustangs in recent years.

    Federal laws protecting wild horses since the 1970s require the government to treat them humanely when culling overpopulated herds.

    But agency officials said a series of new internal policy directives announced Friday will better protect free-roaming horses and burros by centralizing oversight and stepping up daily reports at each gather in 12 Western states.

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    ‘‘Press/media, congressional and public attention to recent gathers have compelled the BLM to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information,’’ a new directive said.

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    Among other things, helicopter contractors will have to take extra care not to separate slower young animals from their mothers in roundups.

    The new orders also require the agency to make sure the public has access to observe the roundups, in compliance with federal law. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco recently granted a horse advocacy group’s appeal and ordered the agency to review practices to ensure it did not violate the First Amendment by keeping critics from a controversial gather in Nevada a year ago.

    ‘‘At all times, the care and treatment provided by the BLM and contractors will be characterized by compassion and concern for the animals.”