Deadline nears for comments on plan to capture 1,560 Wyo. wild horses

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Wild horses in Wyoming’s Checkerboard. Photo by Carol Walker

Update: This roundup is now scheduled to begin after Sept. 15, 2017.

Public comment is due Aug. 10 on the Bureau of Land Management’s plan to capture and remove 1,560 wild horses from three herds in southwest Wyoming’s Checkerboard region.

Written comments are due Aug. 10, 2017. All comments submitted via email should be sent to: with “2017 AML Gather EA” in the subject line. Comments may also be mailed to: BLM Rock Springs Field Office, 2017 AML Gather, 280 Highway 191 North, Rock Springs, WY 82901.

The BLM plans to use helicopter drive trapping to remove more than half of the wild horses from three Herd Management Areas:

  • 513 of the 1,123 wild horses present in the Adobe Town HMA, which has a BLM-assigned “Appropriate Management Level” of  610-800 wild horses;
  • 322 of the 737 in the Great Divide Basin HMA, which has an AML of 415-600;
  • and 725 of the 976 in the Salt Wells Creek HMA, which has an AML of 251-365.

BLM is considering re-releasing a portion of the wild horses captured that would include 315 mares treated with the fertility control vaccine PZP.

BLM allows private cattle, sheep and horse grazing on the three HMAs equal to 149,962 Animal Unit Months. An AUM is defined as the use of public land by one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month. According to BLM, livestock use has been at 39% of permitted levels between 2008-16, with voluntary reductions, in part because of drought.

The Checkerboard is an unfenced region alternating blocks of public and private or state land. The proposed roundup would take place over a combined 1.7 million acres of public land and 731,703 acres of private land.

BLM conducted a 2014 roundup in the region after reaching an agreement with a ranching association to remove wild horses from the entire Checkerboard. That followed a 2013 lawsuit filed by the Rock Springs Grazing Association demanding that BLM remove wild horses from private ranch land there.

Last October, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that BLM violated both the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act and Federal Land Policy Management Act in conducting that 2014 roundup. The court found that the agency illegally treated public lands as private in its plans.

Return to Freedom joined fellow wild horse advocacy organizations as a co-plaintiff in the case. The appeals court’s ruling resulted in the cancellation of a planned fall 2016 roundup in the Checkerboard, also based on the agreement with the grazing association.

Now, BLM is justifying its plans to maintain the HMAs at its minimum population targets based in part on the court’s ruling.

To read BLM’s planning documents, click here.



‘No ambiguity’: Court tells BLM it cannot treat public land as private, Oct. 27, 2016

Press release: Landmark ruling stops BLM Wyo. wild horse wipeout, Oct. 14, 2016