Largest-ever roundup an alarming signal for future of Wyoming’s wild horses

A contractor’s helicopter pushes wild horses toward the trap site during a 2017 roundup in Wyoming’s Checkerboard region. RTF file photo.

For Immediate Release

Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation on Thursday ripped the Bureau of Land Management for its blatant effort to wipe out Wyoming’s wild horses.

The agency on Thursday began a helicopter roundup of 4,300 wild horses in southwest Wyoming, the largest in BLM’s history.

Over the coming weeks, BLM plans to permanently remove 3,500 out of an agency-estimated 5,105 wild horses from five Herd Management Areas made up of 3.44 million acres of federal, state and private land in Southwest Wyoming. Of 800 wild horses that BLM plans to return to the range, half will be mares treated with fertility control.

That will leave about 1,605 wild horses, or one horse for every 2,141 acres.

“Unless BLM changes course, this roundup could mark the beginning of the end for wild horses across Wyoming’s Checkerboard region,” said Neda DeMayo, president of Return to Freedom, a national nonprofit advocacy organization. “That’s what will happen if a local association is allowed to dictate to a federal agency and monopolize public lands for private livestock and hunting.”

The roundup comes even before BLM has finalized an amendment to its Resource Management Plan. The agency’s preferred option: Effectively zeroing out the wild horse population on three Herd Management Areas while slashing the number of horses it allows on a fourth. The BLM’s plan also includes the use of dangerous, costly and inhumane surgical sterilization of wild mares, which RTF strongly opposes.

BLM is amending its Resource Management Plan in order to comply with a consent decree it entered into in 2013 with the Rock Springs Grazing Association, a livestock group that sued to have wild horses removed from Wyoming’s Checkerboard, a 2-million-acre area of alternating blocks of private and public land set up in the 1860s as part of negotiations with the Union Pacific railroad.

“BLM’s state office is clearing wild horses out of the way for livestock and hunting interests,” DeMayo said. “The agency’s preferred plan shows a blatant bias toward ranchers whose livestock already dwarf the number of wild horses there. BLM’s reason – that it’s too hard to separate public and private lands — is just not good enough for an agency tasked by federal law with protecting wild horses.”

BLM’s pending plan considers only reallocating forage from wild horses to other wildlife or livestock without making an equivalent amount of forage available to wild horses elsewhere.

In drafting its plan, BLM apparently did not consider other possible solutions more in keeping with the 1971 Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act like land swaps or scaling up a program of safe, proven and humane fertility control, which could stabilize herd populations and reduce the number of wild horses removed then warehoused in already overcrowded off-range holding facilities.

TAKE ACTION: Tell BLM: Don’t zero-out Wyoming Herd Management Areas