BLM Ignores Tens of Thousands of Public Comments; Gallops Ahead with Wyoming Wild Horse Wipeout

Rock Springs, WY (January 13, 2014)…. As of Friday’s deadline, more than 12,000 citizens had submitted comments opposing the Wyoming Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) plan to conduct a wild horse roundup in the Great Divide Basin Herd Management Area (HMA) this summer.

Over the past 13 months, the BLM”s Rock Springs Field Office has received over 40,000 comments from American citizens opposing the agency’s plan to wipe out wild horses from the Wyoming Checkerboard, a two million-acre swath of public and private land in the southern part of the state. The Divide Basin roundup is a part of the massive wipeout plan.

“The BLM is blatantly ignoring tens of thousands of public comments while galloping ahead with its plan to destroy nearly half of Wyoming’s remaining wild horse populations,” said Suzanne Roy, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), a national coalition of more than 60 organizations. “The public overwhelmingly supports wild horse protection. But, the BLM is taking its marching orders from the Rock Springs Grazing Association, a special interest group whose members view mustangs as competition for cheap, tax-subsidized livestock grazing on public lands.”

The strong public sentiment is reflected in national public opinion polls indicating that 72% of Americans support protecting wild horses on public lands in the West, while only 29% want to ensure that public lands are available for livestock grazing.

The BLM intends to conduct a helicopter roundup to remove 164 wild horses from the Great Divide Basin HMA, even though the population is well within the established Allowable Management Level of 412-600 wild horses. The action will also eliminate wild horses from the public-private checkerboard portion of the HMA, which comprises nearly half of its 779,000 acres.  

The HMA includes four livestock grazing allotments, which are authorized by BLM to use 17-26 TIMES MORE forage than are the federally-protected wild horses in Divide Basin.

The Divide Basin roundup is the next stage in 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 3,100-square mile Wyoming Checkerboard. 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 would be sterilized (castrated or spayed) and returned the range.

The consent decree settled a lawsuit filed in 2011 by the RSGA against the Interior Department and BLM. The year prior, a high level Interior Department official advised the RSGA to file the lawsuit as a strategy for getting funding for more wild horse roundups. In 2013, the BLM settled the case by giving the RSGA everything it was seeking.

The Divide Basin roundup follows the November 2013 roundup in BLM’s Salt Wells HMA, which removed 586 wild horses and “zeroed out” (eliminated all wild horses from) the vast majority of the HMA, which is comprised of checkerboard lands.

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 60 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 (RTF), a national non-profit dedicated to wild horse preservation through sanctuary, education and conservation. RTF also operates the American Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc, CA.