“Ugly” is a good description for the Rock Springs Grazing Association’s plans for Wyoming’s wild horses. They brought a lawsuit against the BLM (on the BLM’s recommendation!) to have them remove all the wild horse from 4 of the largest herd areas in the country: Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek, White Mountain and Great Divide Basin. They demand the removal of the wild horses not only from private lands but also from adjoining public lands, and these areas all together are over 3 million acres. The issue is the “checkerboard” a twenty mile strip that followed the railroad and was used to finance it by selling private lots in amongst public land. In the 80s there was an agreement made about numbers of wild horses allowed in these areas, but the Grazing Association claims the BLM has let wild horse numbers run out of control, so they want all of them gone. This is a matter of greed and special interest groups driving the use of public lands, which if unchecked, will result in the probable extinction of our wild horses.
Great Divide Basin is the Herd Area under fire right now. The first 3 days the BLM was removing all of the horses that were rounded up because these horses were “outside the HMA” or nearly outside it. At this new trap site, some of the horses will be returned – all the mares returned will be treated with birth control, PZP-22 and the sex ratio of the herd will be skewed – 60% stallions to 40% mares. So although this herd will not be sterilized at this time, the fabric of the families will be fractured, and never be the same.
I was on a hill in the blowing wind. I saw the helicopter bringing in a large group horses, more than 30 all together. AS they are coming in the distance, I see two bachelor stallions run up to the wrong side of the trap. They are very surprised by this alien structure in their environment – they stop then run up a hill and out of sight.
Then the large group comes closer, and as they approach the trap, the stallion in the lead heads right for the wings of the trap, and one of the wranglers leaps to the side as the whole group charges through the break in the fence. They run up the hill toward me, which is thrilling to see, but the helicopter dives down to turn the horses and head them back toward the trap. Finally they are driven in in a cloud of dust and steam coming off the horses who have been running hard.
As the helicopter hunts for its next group to drive in, a small family band runs up the hill behind us – I hope they stay free!
The wind is blowing harder and as I huddle in my coat, I hear that this is the last group the helicopter will bring in today.
I follow the BLM down to the temporary holding facility where the horses are sorted and held until their fate is decided – some few will be released, the rest shipped to Canon City or Rock Springs short term holding facilities. I wait for an hour as the wind howls so that I can see the horses before I leave. There were no injuries today. I see a palomino stallion peeking out and then I walk further and see the weanlings, now separated from their mothers. One of the colts has markings just like my adopted Adobe Town youngster, Mica.
Here are the staggering statistics for this roundup which ended last week – 1132 horses were rounded up and only 137 of them were returned to their home, on over 700,000 acres.
This roundup started before the Red Desert Roundup was completed because of pressure from the lawsuit brought by the grazing association – the BLM decided they better round up and remove most of these horses before the winter weather deteriorated and prevented that from happening. Who is in charge here?
If the Rock Springs Grazing Association wins this lawsuit, all of these horses will be removed, and all of the horses from Adobe Town, Salt Wells and White Mountain as well. The intervention into the lawsuit of RSGA v. the BLM by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, The Cloud Foundation and the International Society for the Protection of Wild Horses and Burros is the only hope for the wild horses of Wyoming.
Here is an announcement by The Cloud Foundation, which includes where you can donate to help pay for legal fees for the intervention:
Please pass this along and donate if you can.