by Carol Walker, Dir. of Field Documentation, Wild Horse Freedom Federation
The Bureau of Land Management has released the Environmental Assessment for the Fifteenmile Herd Management Area in northern Wyoming, proposing rounding up and removing wild horses down to the low end of the Appropriate Management Level, 70 wild horses, or 100 if the AML is adjusted up, but which would leave the herd at well below the number needed to maintain genetic viability, which is 150 adults.
The Fifteenmile Herd management Area is a wild and remote place, consisting of 70,534 acres of public land, and it is 35 miles west of Worland. It is a starkly beautiful and, with mesas and buttes and hoodoos and red rock, and very few people visit the horses there.
This area is unique because these wild horses have been unmolested for 10 years, with the last roundup and removal taking place in October of 2009. The horses are truly wild, most often running from the sight of vehicles even miles away. They are very colorful, and and very healthy despite living in such harsh, dry and inhospitable lands.
The last count of the herd according to the BLM was done in January of 2016, and even with the statistical adjustment of the “simultaneous double count” method the BLM uses to adjust up the direct count, they only estimated 284 wild horses. If this number is accurate, then the BLM’s projections of increasing herd size 25% every year is completely inaccurate. The BLM estimates they left 100 horses in 2009. If the population increased as they projected, there should be 472 wild horses in the HMA in 2016.
The numbers that the BLM cites for increasing herd size are ridiculous. They project that the herd will number 337 in 2017, 404 in 2018 and 485 in 2019. They are basing the need for this roundup on a lie.
You can read the Environmental Assessment here:
Many people have maintained including the report the BLM commissioned from the USGS that constant roundups actually boost the birth rate of wild horses. In this case, with this herd being left virtually untouched for the last 10 years and the birth rate increasing very slowly, this seems to prove that out. This herd can provide an incredibly valuable resource to study managing a herd without roundups and removals as a much more cost effective, more humane for the horses alternative to the constant destructive cycle of every 3 years rounding and removing more wild horses.
The excuse of range degradation does not exist for removing wild horses here. The BLM’s own survey shows that 97% of the range is is in good shape and the 3% that is not is not due to wild horse or livestock degradation.
I do understand the need to remove wild horses that have strayed onto private land. But that should be accomplished by low impact low stress bait trapping on those private lands. Resources are sparse in this HMA so baiting the horses in should work well.
In the Proposed Action the BLM discusses changing the AML to a low of 100 and a high of 230 wild horses. This is much better than the 70-100 range that now exists. But I suggest changing the AML to 150-300 wild horses. I suggest doing a 5-10 study of the herd, and seeing what the population does to keep itself in check due to changing weather, forage and range conditions, and water availability. I asset that this herd has found its own equilibrium – therefore let us benefit from this and study what is working instead of destroying the herd.
Something that the BLM never considers or mentions or accepts as a viable concern is the welfare of the horses that are rounded up and removed. With the current policy of shipping every horse 5 years old or older off to private facilities, and then possibly selling them to slaughter, most of these horses are condemned to death once they are removed from their home. They belong on the range, on our public lands.
I am completely opposed to skewing the sex ratio 60% males to 40% females to “slow population growth.” The BLM has absolutely no proof that this works, and I have seen the damage that doing this skewing does to a neighboring herd, the McCullough Peaks Herd. It stresses the herd in a very negative way, increasing fights and conflicts between stallions and decreasing the stability of wild horse families and it should never be done on wild horse herds.
Please comment by March 4 on this plan, and choose the No Action Alternative, and request that they raise the AML to 150-300 wild horses, and begin a study of this unique herd.
The most effective thing you can do is to use your own words – the BLM says if you use a form to comment that they count all the forms received as one comment.
Comments should be received by March 4 at 4:30 MT and can be emailed to:
(please include FifteenmileHMA in the subject line) or mailed to Wild Horse Specialist, BLM Worland Field Office, 101 South 23rd Street, Worland, WY 82401.