Gov't to Get Rid of Wild Horses on Wyoming Checkerboard

Fed'l Government Plans to Eliminate Wild Horses from 2 Million Acres of Wyoming Public Land to Satisfy Livestock Industry

Proposed Settlement with Grazing Association Would Impact Half the State’s Remaining Wild Horse Herds

Cheyenne, WY ( March 18 2013) – A federal court in Wyoming is expected to rule imminently on a  proposed settlement agreement between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Rock Springs Grazing Association (RSGA) that, if approved by the Court, would 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 settlement agreement, or Consent Decree, is in response to a lawsuit filed by the nation’s largest grazing association against the Interior Department. The settlement is vigorously opposed by the American Wild Horse Preservation CampaignThe Cloud Foundation and the International Society for the Preservation of Mustangs and Burros, who were granted intervenor status in the case.

The Consent Decree, if approved, will have extreme consequences for the wild horses that are currently roaming free on the public lands of the Wyoming Checkerboard,” wrote attorney Katherine Meyer, of the public interest law firm Meyer, Glitzenstein and Crystal, in opposition to the proposed consent decree. “[T]he Decree proposes to entirely eliminate more than one-third of the current allowable wild horse population in the state. These are extreme measures that will not only negatively impact the Intervenors’ interests but will have long-standing and devastating consequences for Wyoming’s wild horses.

The lawsuit, filed by the RSGA in July 2011, seeks the removal of all wild horses from the private and public lands of the Wyoming checkerboard, which encompass several key wild horse Herd Management Areas (HMAs). According to the RSGA’s own filings in the case, the grazing association filed the lawsuit after being advised to do so by then Assistant Interior Secretary Sylvia Baca in order to secure Congressional funding for more wild horse roundups in Wyoming.

The RSGA grazes thousands of livestock on BLM lands in the checkerboard for tax-subsidized fees that are approximately 1/16th of market rate.

The government and the RSGA’s proposed settlement proposes to:

  • Zero out (eliminate all wild horses from) the Great Divide Basin and Salt Wells Creek HMAs, removing a total of nearly 2 million acres of wild horse habitat.
  • Reduce by half the allowable population of wild horses in the Adobe Town HMA.
  • Convert the wild-free roaming horse population in the White Mountain HMA to a sterilized, non-reproducing herd. 

Joining the intervenors in their opposition to the proposed settlement was Lloyd Eisenhauer, a former BLM manager in the Rock Springs and Rawlins areas.  With regard to the proposed elimination of wild horses from the Salt Wells and Great Divide Basin HMAs, Eisenhauer 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 passedin 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.”

Eisenhauer also called the BLM’s plan to convert the White Mountain wild horse population to non-reproducing a “slow motion zeroing out of this HMA” that is “inconsistent with any wild horse management approach I am familiar with that BLM has implemented on public lands.”

Last week,  final motions in the case were filed, and U.S. District Court of Wyoming Chief Judge Nancy D. Freudenthal is expected to issue a ruling soon.  Additional information about the lawsuit is available 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.

The Cloud Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of wild horses and burros on our Western public lands with a focus on protecting Cloud’s herd in the Pryor Mountains of Montana. Cloud is the subject of Foundation founder Ginger Kathrens’ groundbreaking PBS/Nature documentaries.

International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros, founded over 50 years ago, was instrumental in securing the enactment of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the landmark federal legislation that established protections for wild free-roaming horses and burros on public lands in the West.