As a favor to grazing interests, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is planning to forcibly remove half of the wild horse population of the southwestern part of Wyoming. The horse population in the Great Divide Basin, Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek, White Mountain and Little Colorado Herd Management Areas (HMAs) is estimated to be around 5,100 animals, which is twice the number that the bureau considers an appropriate management level.
Removing half of this population is set to be the largest wild horse roundup in history. The action is driven partially by a 2013 consent decree between the Rocks Springs Grazing Association and the BLM.
The American Wild Horse Campaign claims that if the bureau goes ahead with this plan, it is ignoring the wishes of the public and pandering to ranchers. A Rock Springs City council member points out that wild horses are an important draw for tourism in the area, adding that “this is not a management plan but in fact, an eradication plan.”
“The removal of 3,555 wild horses from 4 million acres in the largest roundup in history is a clear example of the Bureau of Land Management’s race to remove as many of these animals from our public lands as possible with no consideration for the very uncertain fate that faces them,” said wildlife photographer Carol Walker.
“Our wild horses belong on our public lands, wild and free with their families, not in long-term feedlots or dumped at kill auctions by greedy and heedless adopters.”
This comes on the heels of recent wild horse roundups in Colorado that drew criticism as the BLM violated its own protocols for horse welfare. Foals were separated from their mothers overnight in the chaos of the roundup, and horses were herded at dangerous speed during threateningly high temperatures. The roundup was halted early by Colorado’s Governor Jared Polis.
The biased management plan seems to prioritize ranching over wild horses, an animal with a complicated history in North America. If the BLM goes forward with its plans, it will begin removing almost half of Wyoming’s entire wild horse population starting in early October.
Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign, said in a statement that all Americans should have a say in the future of these lands, which have been designated as habitat for federally-protected horses in the state.