On Friday, the Bureau of Land Management captured 44 wild horses, including eight foals, at its ongoing helicopter roundup at the Salt Wells Creek / Great Divide Basin / Adobe Town heard management areas in southwest Wyoming’s Checkerboard region.
In all, 960 wild horses have been captured. The Bureau of Land Management says it is not counting 189 captured foals and weanlings against its goal of removing 1,560 from in and around the three HMAs, however.
That unusual step raised questions from RTF’s humane witness, Steve Paige, early in the roundup, and, on Friday, the American Wild Horse Campaign and wildlife photographers Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl announced they were filing suit as a consequence. AWHC is also taking issue with BLM sending captured wild horses to privately owned corrals, out of the eyes of the public.
No injuries or deaths were reported on Friday. Nine wild horses had died during the roundup, each euthanized for what BLM says was a preexisting condition with “a hopeless prognosis for recovery.”
Paige’s trek to the trap site on Friday was derailed by a punctured tire. It did not go without seeing the consequences of helicopter roundups, however:
“As I started the drive back, I could hear a distant helicopter in the air,” he wrote. “Then horses running toward me. This small family band appeared in a panic. They stopped and listened and looked to the sky, then ran off in search for cover.”
About half of the captured wild horses (mares, foals and weanlings) are to be shipped to the Rock Springs, Wyo., Wild Horse Holding Facility. The remainder (studs and some yearlings) will be sent to the Axtel, Utah, Wild Horse Corrals, a privately owned facility which earlier this year was the site of an outbreak of strangles. The captured horses are to be offered for adoption, and those that are not adopted will be moved to long-term pastures, according to BLM.
The agency plans to capture:
- 513 of the 1,123 adult wild horses present in the Adobe Town HMA, which has a BLM-assigned “Appropriate Management Level” of 610-800 wild horses;
- 322 of the 737 in the Great Divide Basin HMA, which has an AML of 415-600;
- and 725 of the 976 in the Salt Wells Creek HMA, which has an AML of 251-365.
The HMAs are part of Wyoming’s Checkerboard: an unfenced region alternating blocks of public and private or state land. The roundup is set to take place over a combined 1.7 million acres of public land and 731,703 acres of private land.
BLM allows private cattle, sheep and horse grazing on the three Wyoming HMAs equal to 149,962 Animal Unit Months. An AUM is defined as the use of public land by one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month. According to BLM, livestock use has been at 39% of permitted levels between 2008-16, with voluntary reductions, in part because of drought.
BLM conducted a 2014 roundup in the region after reaching an agreement with a ranching association to remove wild horses from the entire Checkerboard. That followed a 2013 lawsuit filed by the Rock Springs Grazing Association demanding that BLM remove wild horses from private ranch land there.
Last October, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that BLM violated both the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act and Federal Land Policy Management Act in conducting that 2014 roundup. The court found that the agency illegally treated public lands as private in its plans.
Return to Freedom joined fellow wild horse advocacy organizations and advocates as a co-plaintiff in the case. The appeals court’s ruling resulted in the cancellation of a planned fall 2016 roundup in the Checkerboard, also based on the agreement with the grazing association.
Now, BLM is justifying its plans to maintain the HMAs at its minimum population targets based in part on the court’s ruling.
Those who wish to view the roundup should contact Tony Brown at (307) 352-0215 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Participants must provide their own transportation, water and food. No bathrooms on-site bathrooms will be available. The BLM recommends driving four-wheel drive, high-clearance vehicles.
More photos from Oct. 6:
Please donate to the Wild Horse Defense Fund to support RTF’s advocacy efforts, as well as selective litigation and coverage of roundups by humane witnesses