Equine Rescue

Stop the Despicable Roundup and Sterilization Plan for Wyoming’s Five Largest Wild Horse Herds

by Carol Walker as published on Wild Hoofbeats

Action Alert! You can Submit Comments and Make Your Voice Heard to Stop the Bureau of Land Management’s Monstrous Plan by April 30, 2021

By Carol J. Walker

Adobe Town mare and foal

On April 1, 2021 the Bureau of Land Management published their Environmental Assessment for five wild horse herds in the Red Desert of Wyoming, in the public lands that include the Checkerboard: Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek, Great Divide Basin, White Mountain and Little Colorado. These herds are on 3,436,000 acres. Despite having a new administration and a new Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, the BLM pushed out this plan to remove 3555 wild horses, the largest proposed roundup in history. This brutal plan includes as alternatives for the remaining horses left on the range dangerous spaying of wild mares, putting IUDs in wild mares and gelding stallions. Not only does the BLM want to remove as many wild horses as possible without even doing an actual count of their numbers for the past two years, they want to leave the remaining horses sterilized so that ultimately the wild horses will be eradicated in these areas. Here is the link to the documents: https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/1501993/570

If you are asking why, the main reason for this aggressive action is the Rock Springs Grazing Association. They are one of the most powerful grazing associations in the country despite only having about a couple dozen member families, and they are the primary holders of grazing leases in these Herd Management Areas and the primary holders of private land within the Checkerboard. They consider all these 3,946,000 acres of public and private land to be “theirs.”

They will never rest until all the wild horses have been eradicated, and they have considerable influence over the Bureau of Land Management. I have been observing, photographing and documenting wild horses in these areas since 2004 and involved in 5 lawsuits to stop the destruction of these wild horse herds over the past 8 years, and no doubt soon will be a plaintiff on yet another lawsuit. If not for keen public involvement and lawsuits, these herds would have been zeroed out long ago. Under this plan, there will be 1550 wild horses total left on 3,436,000 acres, or one horse per 2216 acres.

Here is the imaginative table that includes population estimates based on made up numbers:

There has been no survey done for 2020 or 2021
White Mountain family

Normally, the Rock Springs BLM conducts an aerial survey in April paid for by the Rock Springs Grazing Association, with one member of the Association on board the plane in which they use a statistical double-count method to come up with their numbers. So it is not an actual count. But this year, things have gotten even more falsely devised. They did not even do a survey in 2020 or in 2021, they just picked “20% increase” and called it good. When making up the figure of 20% they do not consider deaths of older horses and the foal death rate which can be as high as 40% depending upon weather conditions. The actual increase is most likely closer to 8 – 10%. I would like an independent agency not affiliated with the BLM or the Rock Springs Grazing Association to do an actual count using real numbers. How can you possible claim that a herd of wild horses is overpopulated when you do not have reliable data to make that determination? And yet this is how the BLM makes their decisions.

We must keep in mind that this roundup is really a preamble to the future Resource Management Plan for this area. The BLM is in the midst of revising this plan and their ultimate goal is to zero out three of these herds entirely: Salt Wells Creek, Great Divide Basin and White Mountain. They will revise the Appropriate Management Level of the Adobe Town Herd downward and virtually sterilize the herd, and keep the Little Colorado Herd at an AML of 69 which is far below the level needed for genetic viability.

The BLM offers 4 alternatives, and their preferred alternative is Alternative II. This would be to remove 3555 wild horses, which in their made up estimation of numbers would equal low Appropriate Management Level for each herd, but in reality since these numbers are inflated, would mean many less horses than that would remain. 842 wild horses will be released back into the HMAs with 420 mares given PZP or Gonacon birth control and 290 of these mares that are not pregnant also having an IUD inserted.

They include Alternative III which is just roundup and remove 3555 wild horses, and then there is Alternative IV. In this alternative 3555 wild horses will be removed, 84 mares will be spayed, 253 will be given Gonacon or PZP and 126 stallions will be gelded. They will also skew the sex ratio from the naturally occurring 50-50 mares to stallions ratio to 60-40 stallions to mares. This Frankenstein’s list of everything you can do to destroy a herd of wild horses is so clearly over the top that I think it is supposed to scare us into thinking that Alternative II is a good deal by contrast. Then, Alternative I is the no action alternative.

The people who prepared this plan and this Environmental Assessment in no way shape or form have the welfare of the wild horses in these 5 herds as any sort of consideration or priority. They go on and on about a Thriving Natural Ecological Balance so often that they have created a new acronym: TNEB. If this was actually true, then the livestock grazing allotments would not look like this:

Putting IUDs in wild mares has only been done once, in 2020 to 8 mares in the Swasey Herd. The study has not been completed so there is not enough data to suddenly decide that it is safe, and it is interesting that they rank putting IUDs in wild mares to be a “temporary contraceptive measure.” I find this hard to believe unless they are planning to remove the IUDs? Nothing was said about this although they think some of the IUDs could fall out. And what about the trauma the wild mares will be subjected to while this procedure is being done? What if there is inflammation of the uterus, brought up as a concern in the 2013 National Academy of Sciences Study Commissioned by the BLM or if the IUD travels to other parts of the body, which can actually kill human women when that happens? What if the mares become pregnant while the IUD is in place? How could they help a wild mare who is in distress when she is in a HMA on hundreds of thousands of acres? Why would they do this to the mares when they are already giving them birth control? Is it because Oklahoma State University got a huge grant and they want to experiment on wild horses?

Then there is the issue of genetic viability. If Little Colorado is brought down to 69 horses and Salt Wells Creek is brought down to 251 and White Mountain to 205 and the remaining horses are given birth control and IUDs? The number of wild horses needed in a herd to preserve genetic viability according to Gus Cothren, the leading wild horse geneticist is 150-200 breeding aged adults in a herd. Well, the BLM blithely suggests bringing in wild horses from other areas if that is a problem. Why on earth would you bring in wild horses from other areas if you are removing 3555? Why not just not remove that many? And then they use the term “metapopulation.” As if the wild horses in all five herds freely move from HMA to HMA so low population in one is not at all a problem. This may be true in Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek, but that is it. Great Divide Basin is across Interstate Highway 80 and 50 miles away. It can in no way shape or form be considered adjacent to the other herds. Horses do not go back and forth between Little Colorado and White Mountain – there are actual physical barriers.

My recommendations which you can use as talking points are the following:

  1. Use Alternative I, the No Action alternative. The roundup and removal and sterilization plans for our wild horses need to be stopped and at the very least put on hold while our new Secretary of the Interior can work with wild horse advocacy groups and the public, not just grazing associations, to come up with a safe, humane, sustainable and viable plan for wild horse management on our public lands.

2. Grazing Leases should be retired in all 5 Herd Management Areas.

3. Appropriate Management Levels should be increased for each of the Herd Management Areas, especially Little Colorado which is extremely and dangerously low (69) for a Herd Management Area of 632,000 acres. Do not introduce wild horses from other herds to make up for too few horses to maintain genetic viability.

4. Wild horses should be managed in their homes, on our public lands where they are found. If there are wild horses outside the HMAs they should be returned to the HMA. If the Rock Springs Grazing Association has a problem with wild horses being on the Checkerboard Lands they should agree to do land swaps to consolidate areas of private and public lands.

5. If birth control is needed to keep the population in check it should be using humane, proven methods that are reversible like PZP. No use of dangerous and inhumane experimental procedures such as spaying and inserting IUDs into wild mares should ever be allowed.

6. Wild horses are the safest and the least expensive to the American tax payer if they are managed where they belong on public lands. Stockpiling wild horses in Long Term Holding Facilities such as feed lots is incredibly expensive, costing millions of dollars each year and is extremely detrimental to the horses, when hundreds die from the helicopter roundups and then later in holding facilities.

7. The adoption program is broken and needs to be fixed and the Adoption Incentive is a thinly disguised way to pay the public money to take wild horses off the hands of the BLM and send them to slaughter while being able to deny killing the horses themselves. Stop the Incentive Program immediately.

8. Do not add 3555 wild horses to the already over 50,000 wild horses in holding facilities. The BLM has released 7 Environmental Assessments and is planning to remove at least 10,000 wild horses in 2021. This massive roundup and removal program is cruel, incredibly expensive and completely unsustainable. It must be stopped immediately and new plans must be made for the management of our wild horses.

Young curly mare in Salt Wells Creek
Please comment on this abominable plan to the BLM by April 30, 2021. Use your own words. You should not submit comments using a form letter or email form letter, all of them get lumped together and counted as 1 comment by the BLM.Go here: https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/1501993/570 Click on Documents then click on the green Participate Now button to submit your comments. If you have trouble with the form or prefer another way to submit comments, please contact the Lead on this project: Jay D’Ewart – Email: jdewart@blm.gov – Phone:(307) 352-033

Please contact the following:

President Joe Biden

Phone: 202-456-1111

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500

Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240
Phone (with employee directory): (202) 208-3100
FedRelay number: (800)877-8339 (TTY)
Email: feedback@ios.doi.gov

Your Senators: https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm

Your Representatives: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

Nada Wolff Culver, Deputy Director of the Bureau of Land Management

Phone: 202-208-2801, Email: nculver@blm.gov

Our wild horses are counting on you. Please get the word out and make your voice heard.

9 replies »

  1. So again here we go with the BLM’s numbers pulled from wherever – made up numbers because they DONT PHYSICALLY COUNT THEM!
    Obviously, if there was an actual count – the numbers would not be this high. OK – vented! Will write another comment. to everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I tried to sign and leave a comment on the site and it said closed for the publics comments. I personally beleive if the wild herds isn’t left alone we will have nothing .the horses and cattle can graze side by side if need be .but I also feel . If you cattle ranchers has more cattle than your land can sustain. You need to send those cattle to market . Plain and simple .leave the blm land to the natural state then we’re for ..why do greedy money hungry people always only think of themselves. Quit being welfare ranchers .and learn to live with what you have .

    Liked by 1 person

    • Evon, most of the people (corporations really) who have grazing leases acquired them when they bought their property. Even though the leases are by law NOT to be considered a property right, they are listed with real estate for sale and they do remarkably inflate the value of a ranch property.

      So while it’s easy and tempting to point fingers at “welfare ranchers” they are simply using (and abusing) a broken system, because they are allowed to. The answer is to fix the system and make all lease holders accountable to our laws and the consequences for ignoring them.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. You people are insane We have working horses in our operation love em but these horses your so worried about are nothing but junk some stupid idiot found out they couldn’t afford to feed em duh! So they dump em in the wilderness and they bred with the wild mustangs Any true horse person will tell you their are very few wild mustangs left these horses left unchecked will do what animals do .reproduce l supose we should turn all the dogs loose and let them reproduce stupid stupid

    Liked by 1 person

    • As a lifelong “true” westerner and horseperson myself, I find your comment here simplistic, angry, and unhelpful. I suggest you do some reading up on history, genetics, population dynamics, ecology, law and politics, then return here with something more useful to the matters at hand than a pejorative rant.

      Happy Trails!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Here is an alternative way to make comments – you can mail them in. Here is what the BLM gives us:
    The BLM is accepting public comments on this EA through BLM’s ePlanning website for this project here: https://go.usa.gov/xpaEN. If you cannot access this system comments may be submitted by mail to: BLM Rock Springs Field Office, Wild Horse Gather, 289 Highway 191 North, Rock Springs, Wyoming 82901.

    Liked by 2 people

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