Oct. 17 update: The Senate Interior Subcommittee and full Appropriations Committee have delayed their hearings. We’ll update you when they reschedule. The good news is that this again gives us more time to log calls with Senators. Please don’t let up!
A helicopter roundup that has seen 1,560 Wyoming wild horses captured will continue after a U.S. District Court rejected a preliminary injunction filed requested advocates because the agency has not been counting foals.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal on Friday denied the motion filed by the American Wild Horse Campaign and wild life photographers Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl.
The co-plaintiffs argued that BLM was diverting from past practice by not counting foals and weanlings against its goal of removing 1,560 wild horses from the Salt Wells Creek / Great Divide Basin / Adobe Town herd management areas in southwest Wyoming’s Checkerboard region.
BLM only began releasing a tally of foals captured after RTF’s humane witness, Steve Paige, and others raised questions about whether they were being counted. Earlier this week, BLM agreed to stop the roundup at 1,560 total horses pending the court’s ruling.
On Friday, BLM captured 26 adult wild horses and 18 foals at the Adobe Town Herd Management Area, bringing the number captured since the roundup began to 1,244 adult horses and 316 foals.
The agency reported no deaths or injuries, keeping the number of wild horses that have died at 13 — each one euthanized for what BLM says was a preexisting condition with “a hopeless prognosis for recovery.” No veterinary reports have been posted.
The roundup will continue on as the U.S. Senate Interior Subcommittee prepares to reveal its version of the Interior Appropriations bill on Tuesday, with the full Senate Appropriations Committee set to vote on Thursday. BLM’s Wild Horse & Burro Program is funded as part of the Interior bill.
The House’s version of the Interior bill, already approved, includes an amendment that removed protective language. That will open door for BLM to euthanize — shoot — healthy unadopted wild horses and burros if the Senate does not stand in the way.
In Wyoming, BLM set out to capture:
- 513 of the 1,123 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.
About half of the captured wild horses (mares, foals and weanlings) are to be shipped to the Rock Springs, Wyo., Wild Horse Holding Facility. More recently, BLM said that those wild horses would then be moved to the Bruneau Off-Range Corrals, located southeast of Boise, Idaho.
The remainder (studs and some yearlings) will be sent to the Axtel, Utah, Wild Horse Corrals, 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.
Both the corrals in Bruneau and Axtel are privately owned facilities, closed to the public, which the AWHC and its co-plaintiffs also took issue with in court.
At roundup’s end, 21 mares are to be released after being collared as part of a movement study. BLM’s Friday report notes that 50 wild horses were “gathered” as part of the study, but it is not immediately clear whether those horses were otherwise counted and whether they included mares collared last winter.
The Salt Wells Creek / Great Divide Basin / Adobe Town HMAs are part of Wyoming’s Checkerboard: a largely 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.
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