Starting on or about Oct. 7, the Bureau of Land Management plans to begin a 4,300-horse helicopter roundup on five Herd Management Areas in Southwestern Wyoming. The agency plans to permanently remove 3,500 wild horses and to return 800 wild horses to the range, treating all released mares with fertility control.
The BLM contends that the helicopter roundup is needed to return the Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek, Great Divide Basin, White Mountain and Little Colorado Herd Management Areas to their “Appropriate Management Levels.” The Herd Management Areas are made up of 3.4 million acres of public, State and private lands in Carbon, Fremont, Lincoln, Sublette, and Sweetwater counties in southwest Wyoming.
“The gather is being conducted to address the overpopulation on the HMAs, prevent deterioration of the rangeland due to the overpopulation, remove horses from private lands and areas not designated for their long-term use, and comply with the 2013 Consent Decree between the Rock Springs Grazing Association and the BLM,” the agency said in a press release.
The BLM estimates that there are 5,105 wild horses, not including foals, on the five HMAs, which have a combined Appropriate Management Level of 1,550-2,145 horses.
By comparison, the proposed roundup area overlaps 32 livestock allotments for seasonal grazing with a total permitted use of 191,791 Animal Unit Months or as many as 15,983 cattle annually. One AUM equals the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow or five sheep for one month. Actual livestock use amounted to about half that maximum between 2010-20, according to BLM.
Captured wild horses will be transported to holding facilities in Rock Springs and Wheatland, Wyo., and “other locations to be determined” to be readied for sale or adoption. Some of the horses may also be taken to the Wyoming Honor Farm in Riverton, Wyo., or the Mantle Adoption and Training Facility in Wheatland for gentling before being made available for adoption.
In 2017, BLM captured 1,968 wild horses from the Salt Wells Creek, Great Divide Basin and Adobe Town HMAs. Fifteen wild horses died. No mares were treated with safe, proven and humane fertility control, which could have delayed or halted future roundups.
As part of its ongoing resource management planning process, BLM is leaning toward a plan that would strip more than 2.4 million acres from wild horse use – an 87% reduction – in the Checkerboard region of southern Wyoming, a move which Return to Freedom strongly opposes.
Viewing the roundup
Participants must provide their own transportation, water and food. The BLM recommends a four-wheel drive, high clearance vehicle. Those interested in observing the gather must notify Brad Purdy at email@example.com or 307-775-6328.