Return To Freedom, along with Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER), photographers Meg Frederick and Angelique Rea, has been actively monitoring the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) plan to benefit private ranchers and eliminate vast portions of Wyoming wild horse territory, and the horses who live there. Our lawsuit is ready to go once BLM releases a decision record on its Resource Management Plan (RMP) amendment for the area.
We need your help to fight BLM’s plan to:
- zero-out the population of the Great Divide Basin and Salt Wells Creek Herd Management Areas (current combined “Appropriate Management Level”: 666-965 wild horses);
- reduce the population in part of the Adobe Town Herd Management Area to zero and reduce the AML, or population goal, from 610-800 wild horses down to 259-536;
- leave the White Mountain Herd Management Area AML at 205-300.
The BLM considered making the White Mountain HMA herd non-reproducing, but its preferred alternative in the final Environmental Impact Statement does note that “population growth suppression tools” including spaying and gelding, which RTF strongly opposes, may be used to limit population growth.
The BLM says it is altering its plans because of an agreement it made in 2013 with private ranchers who want the horses gone from the area, so they can use it for livestock grazing. But that agreement does not require – or allow – the BLM to violate federal law and negatively impact the wild horses under its protection.
The BLM’s only excuse for removing hundreds of horses, and millions of acres from wild horse use? It’s too hard for them to do their job otherwise. This is in an area where the agency was already allowing livestock to outnumber wild horses by more than 10 to 1.
And the consequence of removal, for the horses, is a life of misery. Currently, in just one of Wyoming’s short-term holding facilities, 3,500 captured wild horses are crowded into corrals on an inadequate space totaling 100 acres; another 800 horses including foals are crowded at the Rock Springs facility, with no shade, and no shelter, which they would seek on the range. The agency is not prepared to provide responsible care for the horses already removed and it is inexcusable that they would remove even more.
That is a violation of every obligation the BLM has to preserve and manage the horses, and to conserve wild horses and burros on behalf of all Americans. The BLM did not consider reasonable alternatives, which would lead to stabilization of the population and a decrease, where necessary, of wild horse populations, with fewer horses ending up in already overcrowded off-range holding facilities at great taxpayer expense.
It is also illegal — a clear violation of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act for the BLM to put the wishes of private landowners before the agency’s legal responsibility to federally protected wild horses.
If the BLM is allowed to cave to private landowner pressure in this way, whole herds could vanish across the West.