National Coalition Slams BLM for Plans to Wipe Out Wild Horses from Wyoming Checkerboard

BLM Turning Public Lands Over to Welfare Ranchers, Advocates Say

Rock Springs, WY (July 19, 2014)…. The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), a national coalition, today assailed a plan announced yesterday by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to round up and remove nearly 1,000 wild horses from 1.2 million acres of land in what is known as the “Wyoming Checkerboard” in the southwestern part of the state beginning. AWHPC charged the agency with turning the public lands over to the Rock Springs Grazing Association, a private organization whose members profit from cheap, taxpayer-subsidized grazing on public lands in Wyoming.

 “The BLM is brazenly thumbing its nose at public opinion and the law by proceeding with this action that will devastate these popular and highly cherished Wyoming wild horse herds,” said Suzanne Roy, Director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, noting that the agency received 13,000 comments from American citizens opposing this roundup and an additional 16,000 public comments on the agency’s plan to amend its Resource Management Plan to eliminate wild horses entirely from the areas in question.   

“These wild horses belong to all Americans, not just to a handful of ranchers who view them as competition for cheap, taxpayer-subsidized grazing and want them gone from the landscape,” she continued. “The BLM is legally mandated to protect and preserve wild horses, while livestock grazing occurs on our public lands entirely at the discretion of the government. What’s happening in Wyoming is a perversion of both the law and the public trust.”

As exposed in a March 21, 2013 article by legal analyst Andrew Cohen, the Interior Department invited the RSGA to sue the BLM as a strategy for securing funding for wild horse roundups. The RSGA took the government’s advice and filed a lawsuit, which the BLM then settled by agreeing to everything the grazing association was demanding.

According to AWHPC, the BLM already allocates up to 26 times more forage resources to privately-owned livestock than to federally-protected wild horses in the Adobe Town, Salt Wells, and Divide Basin Herd Management Areas (HMAs), the three areas targeted for the massive roundup, which is scheduled to begin on August 20. The proposed action would bring the wild horse levels in the areas below the legally established “Appropriate” Management Levels (AMLs), something AWHPC challenges as illegal.

According to the BLM’s tentative gather schedule and its categorical exclusion for the roundup, the agency will remove between 800 and 946 wild horses from the Adobe Town, Salt Wells and Divide Basin HMAs, a move that will leave two of the three areas well below the AMLs established by the BLM’s land use management plans. For example, the Divide Basin HMA would be left with just 224 horses after the roundup, far below the area’s established AML of 415-600 wild horses. AWHPC maintains that the BLM cannot bring the area below AML without changing the Resource Management Plan for the area, something the agency proposed in a scoping notice, but has not moved forward with. Additionally, the agency has failed to analyze the impacts of the proposed action, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, through an Environmental Assessment. Rather it is proceeding with the removal of nearly 1,000 horses on the basis of a categorical exclusion, something that precludes public input and comment on the action. 

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.