BLM to Begin Massive Wyoming Wild Horse Roundup to Appease Ranchers

Agency’s Removal of Nearly 600 Mustangs Defies National Academy of Sciences Recommendations

Rock Springs, WY (November 21, 2013) . . . Today, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), a national coalition of more than 50 organizations, blasted the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for continuing business as usual with the massive removal of wild horses in Wyoming, scheduled to begin as early as today in the 1.6 million acre Adobe Town Salt Wells Herd Management Area (HMA) Complex in southern part of the state.

The continued mass roundup, removal and stockpiling of horses in government holding facilities directly contradicts the recommendations of a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel that conducted an extensive, nearly two-year review of the BLM wild horse and burro program and released its report in June.

AWHPC charged that the BLM scheduled the roundup solely to appease local ranchers, who enjoy taxpayer-subsidized grazing on the public lands where wild horses live. AWHPC also accused the BLM of publicly withholding information regarding the start date roundup in order to hinder the public’s ability to travel to the remote roundup location in order to observe the helicopter capture operation. The agency is also limiting public observation opportunities in violation of the First Amendment.

“The massive roundup of wild horses in the Adobe Town and Salt Wells Herd Management Areas is Phase 1 of the BLM’s devastating plan to eliminate federally-protected wild horses from 2 million acres of land in Wyoming,” said Suzanne Roy, AWHPC Director. “The agency is wiping out wild horses at the behest of the private ranching interests that enjoy taxpayer-subsidized grazing on the public lands where the mustangs live. The fact that the BLM gave the public just one day’s notice of the start of the roundup and is restricting the public’s right to observe roundup activities is further evidence that the agency is marching to the tune of special interests at the expense of the public and our wild horses.”

Roy noted that members of the public interested in traveling to Rock Springs to observe the roundup will be unable to do so on the short notice provided by the agency. The agency is also preventing the public from observing this federal operation on private lands in these HMAs and closing all operations to public observation over Thanksgiving weekend.

The agency’s press release, issued yesterday, does not specify the number of wild horses targeted for removal. However, an Environmental Assessment for the capture operation indicated that 586 wild horses will be permanently removed from the range in these two HMAs. The EA further reveals the BLM’s plan to remove ALL wild horses from the checkerboard portions (alternating private/public land parcels) of these HMAs. Since the majority of the Salt Wells HMA is checkerboard land, this action will “zero out” wild horses from all but a small, remote portion of this popular 1.1 million acre HMA.

The roundup is the beginning of the BLM’s implementation of a consent decree between the agency and the Rock Springs Grazing Association (RSGA) which, if fully carried out, will eliminate wild free-roaming horses from the Wyoming Checkerboard, a 2 million acre -- or more than 3,100 square mile -- area of land in the state. The plan will reduce Wyoming’s free-roaming wild horse population by almost by 46%, from 3,685 to 2,070. An additional 205-300 sterilized horses (castrated stallions and spayed mares) would be allowed to remain on the land.

In a declaration filed by former BLM Rock Springs and Rawlins area manager Lloyd Eisenhauer, in the RSGA vs. Department of the Interior case, stated:

“The BLM has no biological or ecological basis for zeroing out a herd of wild horses in an HMA that existed at the time the wild horse statute was passed in 1971 . . . [B]ecause the wild horses have a statutory right to be there, whereas livestock only have a privilege that can be revoked at any time by BLM, there also is no authority or precedent, to my knowledge, for the agency to zero out these two longstanding wild horse herds simply to appease private livestock grazers.”

More information on the RSGA vs. DOI case can be found here.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 50 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. AWHPC is a campaign founded and sponsored by Return to Freedom.