Horse News

Photo Report: Still Room for Wild Horses in Wyoming’s Red Desert?

Range Update by Carol Walker ~ Wild Horse Freedom Federation‘s Director of Field Documentation

“While the rest of us were snuggled up around the fireplace during the in-climate cold weather last week, WHFF’s Carol Walker was out in the Wyoming Desert attempting to make an assessment of the few remaining wild horses left in the Adobe Town HMA.  This is report one with several more to follow documenting not only the activities of the wildlife on the public lands but also what the humans are doing on it and to it…many thanks to WHFF Advisory Board member, James Klienert, for the day spent assisting and filming Carol.  Keep the faith.” ~ R.T.


Music by Opus Moon ~ “Wild Horse Anthology” available on iTunes

It has been almost 10 years since I first visited the wild horses in Adobe Town. Adobe Town Herd Area is almost 500,000 acres, set in a fragile high desert terrain, with dramatic landscape feature and a wilderness study area.  The dramatic buttes and desert badlands are home to wild horses and are part of the winter habitat for pronghorn antelope.

On this late January afternoon, I headed into the herd area on a road I have travelled many times over many years.  It is usually peaceful, with a few white pickup trucks passing me during an afternoon, on their way to check oil and gas pads. Today, huge long trucks pass by me frequently, stirring up so much dust that I cannot see and have to stop to let it settle.  It feels more like being on a highway than driving a remote road in the Red Desert. There must be some new construction project going on and I even saw a huge bus filled with people pass by, a Haliburton sign on the side.

Although in the past I would often see wild horses and signs of wild horses on this road, today I do not see any, which is not surprising given the traffic. Soon I turn a corner and I see hundreds of moving white objects covering the sagebrush – sheep!  Although it is winter in Adobe Town right now, it is very dry, with just a few spots of snow left. I see the sheep and their shepherds moving and wonder what on earth the sheep are eating this time of year.  I usually saw sheep here in April passing through, not in January. As I continue to drive and turn onto another road, I see a lone white stallion grazing next to some black cattle in front of Haystack Mountain.  I have never seen a horse with cattle before – he must be a bachelor stallion who is not picky about the company he keeps.

I drive on following the path of all the monstrous vehicles. I see several road graders and huge tractors working on a trench, and dust is everywhere covering my vehicle.  I finally spot the big tower of the drilling rig, and it looks like a city around it with vehicles and lights and road graders. I see rock formations nearby, and the scene is surreal – this area which had been so quiet and remote during my last trip in the fall was now completely transformed.  I finally turn around, sure I will not see any wild horses here – there is too much activity.

Finally I drive to another area which was under construction last year but peaceful now. I see a band of wild horses with two bachelors watching nearby. The horses see me but also know there is a fence between me and them, and are not concerned about my presence, but watchful. The stallion runs down to greet the bachelors, and they run for a bit, before he returns to his family.  I keep driving, and as the sun is going down, a large family of wild horses is lit up and rimmed by the dying light.  They move across the road and I get out to watch and to photograph them.  The stallion moves them along, head down, ears back, but one youngster is curious about me and keeps watching as they move by. This stallion I see a couple of times a year, and he is older and not concerned about humans, and so he tolerates my presence.  I continue to watch them until the sun dips behind a hill and the light fades away.  It is time to drive back to town.  The temperature drops fast at this time of year.

As I drive back to town, I wonder if the competing interests of oild and gas and livestock grazing will be enough to end the wild horse population in Adobe Town. Currently the AML or Appropriate Management Level for this herd is at 700, but the Resource Management Plan for the area is under revision, and I have heard that the plan is to bring the population of one of the largest remaining herds in this country down to 200 horses.  So my question is, is Adobe Town big enough to include wild horses?

Of course my answer is yes!

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35 replies »

  1. Sheep are Notoriously destructive grazers. Takes yrs for full recovery, so why are they adding sheep claiming horses are destructive?


  2. This is so governmental and unexvusible. If this is public land, I’m assuming our good friends at the blm had a lot to do with who occupies this area. I guess my next question is going to be to my legislators. Yes, sheep are very damaging next to cattle. In my quest for some answers, I want to know who will be benefiting from this change? I commend thoe in congressional places for their support of the appropriations bill. However, it is but a sliver of what is happening because once these animals are removed from the area no one is accountable as we have witnessed. It is very scary because the american people do not have a clue about what is happening to all our natural resources. The wild horses and burros being the biggest. But again let me thank those who give of their time and money who keep tabs and report back to those of us who cannot be there. We must continue to question our legislators about the activities in these areas. If they are public they belong to all of us and just a select few who seem to be gaining ing from some of these activities. Beef and the consuming of other animals is declining for a variety of reasons. If I was in that industry I would be trying to clean up my act instead of making enemies. This is a tragedy and must be stopped! Give the horses and burros back their freedom and rangeland.


  3. Thank you, Carol Walker. The paragraph about the road and area that was previously peaceful and now surreal with people and vehicles and the towering drill rig reminds me of a horror movie. It is even more frightening when we realize that this is only one scenario out of thousands on our public land and especially on our wild horse and burro land.


  4. Haystack mountain, Red Desert areas. I have an article written in January 1949 about these wild horses (including photos) about Verne Wood a photographer. He waged a campaign for a refuge for these exact horses. He wrote about the airplanes with screaming sirens that rounded up these horses. Many names and roundup locations are mentioned. He sold his photos to aid the campaign. This is a very fragile desert area hundreds of wild horses didn’t seem to damage at all. I’ll mail this article to the blog, Maybe something can be done to help the wild horses if Verne Wood left any financial assistance/land or trusts that were intended to help these horses be free forever. Would be an interesting article to reprint in this blog.


    • The 1949 article has been sent out to the post office(Magnolia,Tx address) Perhaps Verne Woods family saved some of the thousands of photos he took of horses and landscape, plants of this very area. Proof the wildlife did not harm this area would really help against the way BLM today always blames wild horses ruining the land.
      Was also thinking about any old photos of the landscape and wild horses from 1970 that could prove wild horses were there in 1970 & the changes to the land caused by not horses, damage from sheep and cattle.. Any zeroed out herd areas could have horses returned to the land they occupied in 1970 (that Federal law the BLM ignores)


  5. If this is BLM land photographed, I can say the sheep grazing allotments are often for the winter months in this area, you’d have to check the particulars of the agreement, some near me end in the spring. Not saying this is good/bad/indifferent, just that it is not unusual.


  6. I wondered if natural resources had something to do with the government exterminating the horses. Probably all will go as they’re in the way of the pipeline coming from Canada to Mexico.


  7. Many thanks, Carol. If only our wild horses and public lands were being cared for like the BLM was supposed to have done. Instead things just keep getting worse.


  8. Multiple use….that’s the law for BLM land. The problems lies I the fact that once the extraction industry decides to exercise their use, everything else is pushed out. My mare’s herd is disappearing and my heart is breaking.


  9. Thanks you for the great story Carol. I can’t imagine how it feels to be out there all by yourself, watching these monster trucks, machines. etc. These poor horses must be so scared to see this happening. This is supposed to be our land, but they are taking it away from us and these beautiful horses. They need to be running free and multiplying, not being reduced down to a herd of 200!!!! I repost any info I get about the horses and burros, and sign petitions whenever I can. Thank you for all that you do to keep the plight of these animals out there!!!!



    Katherine A. Meyer
    Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal
    1601 Connecticut Ave., N.W.
    Suite 700
    Washington, D.C. 20009
    (202) 588-5206
    Timothy Kingston
    408 West 23rd Street, Suite 1
    Cheyenne, WY 82001-3519
    (WY Bar No. 6-2720)
    (307) 638-8885

    Attorneys for Defendant-Intervenors
    Rock Springs Grazing Association, Case No. 2:11-cv-00263-NDF
    Ken Salazar, et al.,

    I, Lloyd Eisenhauer, declare as follows:
    1. I live in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I am a former Bureau of Land Management
    (“BLM”) official with extensive experience in the Rawlins and Rock Springs Districts in Wyoming and intimate familiarity with the public lands under BLM management in those areas. I have reviewed the consent decree proposed by BLM and the Rock Springs Grazing Association (“RSGA”) in this case and provide this declaration based on my longstanding knowledge of, and management of, wild horses and livestock grazing in the Rock Springs and Rawlins Districts.
    2. I grew up in Pine Bluffs, Wyoming with a livestock and farming background, served in the Marines for four years, and then owned a livestock business from 1952-1958. I enrolled in college in 1958, studying range management. From 1960-1961, BLM hired me to assist with collecting field data for vegetation assessments and carrying capacity surveys related to livestock and wild horses. These surveys were conducted in the Lander, Kemmerer, and Rawlins Districts. When I graduated in 1962, BLM hired me full-time to serve in the Rawlins District in Wyoming, where most of my work focused on grazing management involving sheep, cattle, and wild horses. From 1968-1972, I was Area Manager of the Baggs-Great Divide Resource Area in the Rawlins District. In 1971, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was enacted, and in the spring of 1972, on behalf of BLM, I conducted the first aerial survey of wild horses in Wyoming, recording the number of horses and designating the Herd Management Areas (“HMAs”) for the Rawlins District. After a stint as an Area Manager with BLM’s Albuquerque, New Mexico office, in 1975 I took over as the Chief of Planning and Environmental Analysis in BLM’s Rock Springs District for three years. I was the lead on all planning and environmental assessments. During that time, I also served as the Acting Area Manager of the Salt Wells Resource Area, which is located in the Rock Springs District. In 1979, BLM transferred me to its Denver Service Center to serve as the Team Leader in creating the agency’s automated process for data collection. I received an excellence of service award from the Secretary of the Interior commending me for my work as a Team Leader. In 1982, I became the Head of Automation in BLM’s Cheyenne office, where I managed and implemented the data collection and processing of various systems related to BLM programs. I retired from BLM in 1986, and have stayed very involved in the issue of wild horse and livestock management on BLM lands in Wyoming, and have written articles about the issue in local and other newspaper outlets. I have won various journalistic awards, including a Presidential award, for my coverage of conservation districts in Wyoming. Along with a partner, I operated a tour business (called Backcountry Tours) for six years, taking various groups into wild places in Wyoming – without a doubt wild horses were the most popular thing to see on a tour, in large part due to their cultural and historical value. I also served six years on the governor’s non-point source water quality task force.
    3. Based on my longstanding knowledge of wild horse and livestock management in the Rawlins and Rock Springs Districts, and in the Wyoming Checkerboard in particular, I am very concerned about BLM’s agreement with RSGA, embodied in the proposed Consent Decree they have filed in this case, under which BLM would remove all wild horses located on RSGA’s private lands on the Wyoming Checkerboard.
    4. The Checkerboard is governed by an exchange of use agreement between the federal government and private parties such as RSGA. However, due to state laws, property lines, and intermingled lands, it is impossible to fence the lands of the Wyoming Checkerboard, which means that both the wild horses and the livestock that graze there roam freely between public and private lands on the Checkerboard without any physical barriers. For this reason, it is illogical for BLM to commit to removing wild horses that are on the “private” lands RSGA owns or leases because those same horses are likely to be on public BLM lands (for example, the Salt Wells, Adobe Town, Great Divide, and White Mountains HMAs) earlier in that same day or later that same evening. Essentially, in contrast to other areas of the country where wild horses still exist, on the Wyoming Checkerborad there is no way to distinguish between horses on “private” lands and those on public lands, and therefore it would be unprecedented, and indeed impossible for BLM to contend that it is removing all horses on RSGA’s “private” lands at any given time of the year, month, or day, considering that those horses would only be on the strictly “private” lands very temporarily and intermittently on any particular day .
    5. Another major concern with BLM’s agreement to remove all horses from the private lands of the Wyoming Checkerboard is that BLM is undermining the laws that apply to the Checkerboard, and wild horse management in general, which I implemented during my time as a BLM official. Traditionally, BLM officials (myself included) have understood that, pursuant to the Wild Horse Act, wild horses have a right to use BLM lands, so long as their population numbers do not cause unacceptable damage to vegetation or other resources. In stark contrast, however, livestock (sheep and cattle) have no similar right to use BLM lands; rather, livestock owners may be granted the privilege of using BLM lands for livestock grazing pursuant to a grazing permit that is granted by BLM under the Taylor Grazing Act, but that privilege can be revoked, modified, or amended by BLM for various reasons, including for damage to vegetation or other resources caused by livestock, or due to sparse forage available to sustain livestock after wild horses are accounted for. BLM’s tentative agreement here does the opposite and instead prioritizes livestock over wild horses, by proposing to remove hundreds of wild horses from the Wyoming Checkerboard without reducing livestock numbers – which, in my view, is contrary to the laws governing BLM’s actions as those mandates were explained to me and administered during the decades that I was a BLM official.
    6. While I do not agree with every management action taken by BLM over the years in the Rock Springs District, I can attest – based on my longstanding employment with BLM and my active monitoring of the agency’s activities during retirement – that BLM has generally proven capable of removing wild horses in the Rock Springs District, including by responding to emergency situations when needed and removing horses when necessary due to resource damage.
    7. Considering that wild horses exhibit different foraging patterns and movement patterns than sheep and cattle, and also than big game such as antelope and elk, no sound biological basis exists for permanently removing wild horses from the Wyoming Checkerboard at this time. In particular, wild horses tend to hang out in the uplands at a greater distance from water sources until they come to briefly drink water every day or two, whereas livestock congregate near water sources and riparian habitat causing concentrated damage to vegetation and soil. For this reason, the impacts of wild horses are far less noticeable on the Checkerboard than impacts from livestock.
    8. In addition, because livestock tend to eat somewhat different forage than wild horses (horses tend to eat coarser vegetation such as Canadian wild rye and other bunch grasses, whereas cattle and sheep mostly eat softer grasses), there is no justification to remove wild horses on the basis that insufficient forage exists to support the current population of wild horses. Also, because cattle and sheep have no front teeth on the front part of their upper jaws, they tend to pull and tear grasses or other forage out by the root causing some long-term damage to vegetation, whereas wild horses, which have front teeth on both their front upper and lower jaws, act more like a lawnmower and just clip the grass or forage (leaving the root uninjured), allowing the vegetation to quickly grow back. These differences are extremely significant because if there were a need to reduce the use of these BLM lands by animals to preserve these public lands, it might be cattle and sheep – not wild horses – that should be reduced to gain the most benefit for the lands, and which is why BLM, during my time as an agency official, focused on reducing livestock grazing.
    9. BLM’s agreement with RSGA states that RSGA’s conservation plan limited livestock grazing, primarily by sheep, to the winter months to provide sufficient winter forage. This is a good example of “multiple use” management, since wild horses and sheep have very little competition for the forage they consume and the seasons during which they use parts of the Checkerboard. During winter, sheep use the high deserts and horses utilize the uplands and breaks (i.e., different locations) for forage and protection. During the summer, when sheep are not present, wild horses use various landscapes on the Checkerboard. This multiple use should continue for the benefit of the livestock, the wild horses, and the public and private lands involved.
    10. I am also very concerned about BLM’s agreement with RSGA to permanently zero out the Salt Wells HMA and the Divide Basin HMA, leaving no wild horses in those areas that have long contained wild horses. I have been to fifteen of the sixteen HMAs in Wyoming, and to my knowledge none has ever been zeroed out by BLM. It is my view, based on everything I know about these areas and the way these public lands are used by wild horses and livestock, that BLM has no biological or ecological basis for zeroing out a herd of wild horses in an HMA that existed at the time the wild horse statute was passed in 1971, as is the case with both the Salt Wells and Divide Basin HMAs. And, again, because the wild horses have a statutory right to be there, whereas livestock only have a privilege that can be revoked at any time by BLM, there also is no authority or precedent, to my knowledge, for the agency to zero out these two longstanding wild horse herds simply to appease private livestock grazers.
    11. The zeroing out of wild horses in the Salt Wells and Divide Basin HMAs is also concerning because it would mean that, in those two longstanding HMAs, there would no longer be the “multiple use” of these public lands as required by both the Wild Horse Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. Currently, while there are other uses of this public land, such as by wildlife, hunters, and recreational users, the two primary uses in those HMAs are by wild horses and livestock. If BLM proceeds with its agreement with RSGA to zero out wild horses in those HMAs, the only major use remaining would be livestock use, meaning that there would be no multiple use of those BLM lands. Not only will that potentially undermine the laws that BLM officials must implement here, but it has practical adverse effects on the resources – multiple use is very beneficial for the environment, and particularly for sensitive vegetation, because different users (e.g., livestock, wild horses) use the lands and vegetation in different ways. When that is eliminated, the resources are subjected to an unnatural use of the lands which can cause severe long-term damage to the vegetation. As a result, zeroing out these herds would likely bedevastating for the vegetation in these two HMAs, because livestock would be by far the predominant use in this area.
    12. Turning the White Mountain HMA into a non-reproducing herd, as the agreement between BLM and RSGA proposes to do, is also a farce, and violates the meaning of a wild and free-roaming animal. This is essentially a slow-motion zeroing out of this HMA, and is inconsistent with any wild horse management approach I am familiar with that BLM has implemented on public lands.
    Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1746, I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.
    Lloyd Eisenhauer


    • WOW, thanks Louie, I have been out of the loop for while had had not seen this..I see this is very valuable testimony in a case involving the red desert horses. Has ths case been resolved in court yet? Very damning testimony from a unimpeachable source


  11. Wow, awesome information, Louie C. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to see this testimony by Lloyd Eisenhouer. Thank you also to Carol for braving the elements and emotional concern to photograph this precious herd. Heartbreaking to see what is happening in our country. Have to keep the info coming. I keep spreading the word as I get it. Thanks again!!! And keep up the good work!!!


  12. “Legal”?
    Cheyenne, WY ( April 4, 2013) – A federal court in Wyoming has approved a consent decree between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Rock Springs Grazing Association (RSGA) that will wipe out wild free-roaming horses from the Wyoming Checkerboard, a two-million acre swath of public and private land in the southern part of the state.


    • Louie, thanks. I thought it was something brand new but see this is from the Consent Decree which was decided last spring…I think the Sand Wash is up for reduction in 2014; it is just south of Rock Springs in Colorado.


    Ninth Circuit Chides Agencies for Using Consent Decree to Circumvent Rulemaking By Myles A. Conway and Daniel L. Timmons May 23, 2013 A recent Ninth Circuit decision calls into question the government’s practice of using consent decrees in a judicial proceeding to set policy for parties nationwide in environmental matters. In Conservation Northwest v. Sherman (Conservation Northwest II), No. 11-35729, 2013 WL 1760807 (9th Cir. Apr. 25, 2013), the court makes a critical distinction between consent decrees which temporarily modify a rule to achieve a particular result in a particular case, and consent decrees which purport to have broader applicability. Specifically, the court held it is an abuse of discretion for a federal court to “enter a consent decree that permanently and substantially amends an agency rule that would have otherwise been subject to statutory rulemaking procedures.”[1] – See more at:


  14. 1
    Ranchers, BLM settle suit over Wyoming wild horses

    U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal in Cheyenne approved the settlement Wednesday. The settlement requires the BLM to round up horses to meet the new herd target numbers. Roundups will occur this year through 2015, or 2016 if the population objectives aren’t met by then.

    The association’s president, JOHN HAY, of Rock Springs, declined to comment Thursday



    TCF also requested an accounting of how many wild horses are currently being held in the Rock Springs corrals. The BLM public information officer told Ginger Kathrens, Executive Director of TCF in an email to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for this information.

    “Responses to FOIA requests typically take months and then the government may simply deny the information requested,” stated Kathrens. “Why is this information being kept secret? Have horses already died in these frigid conditions?”

    Unless TCF gets a count immediately, there may be no way to determine foal survival rates since BLM, shockingly, does not count young horses less than six months of age. At the BLM National Adoption Center in Palomino Valley (PVC) foals that die that are less than six months of age are not counted and their bodies are shipped to local renderers with no paper trail documenting that they ever existed.


  16. I am saded by all of this !!! :(. I wish there was something I could do to help I would love to be able to see theses wild horses some day.


  17. Its not the sheep or cattle ruining the Red Desert. Its the oil and natural gas drillers driving the demise of the wild horses. Put two oil men in the White House at the same time and this is what happens, even if they were Westerners. Like the author said the Red Desert is criss crossed with roads, pumping stations, relay station, trucks and rigs. Hardly a wild horse to be found, they are all in the holding pens.


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