Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation, a national nonprofit advocacy organization, condemned the decision of the Bureau of Land Management to go forward today with a plan to use a helicopter to round up and permanently remove 733 of the estimated 896 wild horses on Colorado’s Sand Wash Basin Herd Management Area.
“Local advocates as well as national ones like Return to Freedom offered the BLM alternatives, environmental groups like the Sierra Club took the unusual step of speaking against the roundup, and Gov. Jared Polis called on BLM to freeze roundups and work with the state to manage its wild horses more humanely. All of that, and yet BLM is stubbornly going forward,” said Neda DeMayo, president of Return to Freedom.
“BLM is not only decimating this beloved herd and putting the lives of individual wild horses — including young foals — at risk by chasing them over rough terrain with a helicopter, it is bruising any of the goodwill left from a cooperative fertility program run by volunteers. Just last year, volunteers darted 300 mares at Sand Wash with safe, proven and humane fertility control intended to help keep them on the range by slowing reproduction. Now, many of those same mares will be taken from their home range forever. In choosing to go forward with the roundup, BLM is callously ignoring the time, money and effort put into that project.”
The Bureau of Land Management plans to permanently remove 733 of the estimated 896 wild horses from Colorado’s Sand Wash Basin Herd Management Area in a helicopter roundup set to run Sept. 1-27.
BLM is conducting this “emergency” roundup because of concerns about adequate forage for the upcoming winter, because the number of wild horses exceeds the agency-set “Appropriate Management Level” of 163-363 for 157,730-acre Herd Management Area, and because horses have wandered on to private property through gates left open by the members of the public.
While RTF recognizes concerns about forage, photos and videos taken in August from throughout the Herd Management Area show the horses looking healthy and recent rains have alleviated concerns about lack of water.
“With the private sector struggling with hay availability, prices, wildfires and drought, this is not the right time for BLM to target these smaller populations — especially herds that are easily trackable, with very young foals on the ground, and a more than five-year investment in a fertility control program,” DeMayo said. “Surely, a less-excessive approach can alleviate concerns for range health and reduce the damage to this herd.”
In recent days, Return to Freedom and thousands of its supporters wrote to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, urging her to make changes in BLM’s plans, including using a bait-and-trap gather instead of helicopters, reducing the number of wild horses to be removed and returning mares treated with fertility control to the range.
“Congress has begun to provide an additional taxpayer funding to implement safe, proven and humane fertility control on wild horse and burro Herd Management Areas, but we’ve seen too little action from the agency in return,” DeMayo said. “For more than two decades, we’ve been calling on BLM to balance herd numbers by increasing fertility control to slow down reproduction. Instead, BLM has continued a decades-long cycle of capture and removal, year after year. Now, facing drought across the West, the agency is left scrambling to remove thousands of wild horses and warehouse them in overcrowded corrals. America’s wild horses and burros deserve far better from the agency tasked by law with managing them.”
Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation (RTF) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to wild horse preservation through sanctuary, education, conservation, and advocacy since 1998. It also operates the American Wild Horse Sanctuary at three California locations, caring for 500 wild horses and burros. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates about wild horses and burros on the range and at our sanctuary.