One Happy Ending in Adobe Town

by Carol Walker, Director of Field Documentation, Wild Horse Freedom Federation
I had the best news today.
On Friday I got an email from Terry Fitch, Co-Founder of Wild Horse Freedom Federation.  Someone had written to the WHFF tip section of the website.  It was Brad Langley, working south of Rock Springs in Wyoming’s Red Desert.  He had found an orphan foal, with no horses around for miles and nowhere in sight, and he did not know who to call or what to do.  He said that the foal ran after his truck.  He gave directions and GPS coordinates, and the foal was near the Eversole Ranch, where the harrowing last days of the Salt Wells Creek and Adobe Town roundup took place.  I  immediately emailed him that he needed to contact Jay D’Ewart, Wild Horse and Burro Specialist, and gave him Jay’s cell phone number so he would have the best chance of catching him immediately.  We did not know how long the foal could hold out without its mother.

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(Before – all alone)

I thought on Saturday all was well until I received another email from Brad, that the number was disconnected.  Of course BLM offices are closed on the weekend but I emailed and called the office number for Jay, and tried texting him.  The text seemed to go through so I reported back to Terry and Brad that I would let them know if I heard anything, and they said the same.  Brad had gone into the same area with his wife that day trying to find the foal again, with no luck, and sent directions again.

I really was thinking that it was unlikely that the foal would make it through the weekend, but to my utter delight I got a message from Jay D’Ewart this afternoon. Apparently wranglers went out on horseback Friday to find the foal with no luck, but on Saturday, Marvin, who works in the oil and gas fields found the foal and took him home.

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(Foal napping)

Apparently he and his wife Tiffaney have filed papers at Rock Springs BLM to foster the foal, and he spent the weekend in their subdivision – he seems quite at home there!  He has been drinking milk replacer right out of a bucket, and the vet said he was 1 month old.  They will be moving him to a new corral soon, and are thinking of a name.  They said he will have a very good home.

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(Foal in the kitchen)

It is wonderful to hear about a happy ending for one of the Adobe Town horses in the aftermath of the roundup.

Checkerboard Wild Horse Roundup Day 2

On-Site observations by Carol Walker ~ Director of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation

“Every wild horse is to be removed from the Checkerboard Lands in the Red Desert in Wyoming because the BLM at the behest of the Rocks Springs Grazing Association is treating this vast area of alternating tracts of private and public land as if they were just private land.”

photos by Carol Walker, music by Bill Webb

It is day two of the Checkerboard Roundup in Wyoming, and I am in a long line of cars with their lights on, as the sky is gradually lightening, headed down I-80. It looks like a funeral procession, and it actually even feels like one to me because I know there is no happy ending for the horses that will be rounded up today. At every other roundup I have attended in the past, at least some of the horses are released back into the range. They might give the mares birth control, or do something stupid ands skew the sex ration of stallions to mares, but still there was hope for some to remain free. Not this time. Every wild horse is to be removed from the Checkerboard Lands in the Red Desert in Wyoming because the BLM at the behest of the Rocks Springs Grazing Association is treating this vast area of alternating tracts of private and public land as if they were just private land. An the horses now must be removed not only from all private land on 2 million acres, but also from all the public land interspersed with it.

We are at the observation area for the first trap site at Great Divide Basin a mile and a half from the trap which we cannot even see. We are told the helicopters will bring the horses by us but I don’t believe it. There is a big group here today including reporter Dave Phillips from the New York Times and yes this is the Dave Phillips who originally lived in Colorado and broke the story about Tom Davis selling those 1700 mustangs to slaughter.

We saw one small group running on a ridge then just the helicopter. We were promised that the horses would run by us. I would call tho non-observation. This is hands down the worst location for viewing I have ever been stuck in at a roundup. – 1 1/2 miles from the trap and we cannot even see it – it and the approach to it are behind a hill.

Whoohoo we moved! We now have a much better spot and can see the large area on the other side of the trap and we are over the ridge that was blocking our view. We still cannot see the trap or the approach to it, but this is the area the horses were coming across earlier.

Now we can see on the ridge a small family led by a grey stallion, with a grulla mare, black foal and an old grey mare that I saw here 2 days ago. She is lame and they are tired, moving slowly toward the trap.

Troy Cattoor comes over on horseback to chat with us while waiting for the helicopter to bring the horses. We have seen the helicopter at a great distance but could not see horses at all for the last couple of hours. I am still here!

A group of 5 big bay and black bachelors ran right by us unexpectedly, Jay yells a heads up to me because I was getting water at my car, and I yell to the rest of the group while running back and we grab our cameras. Then the bachelor group circles around and heads out to the road.

Next two large groups with several families were driven into the valley in front of us along the far ridge and the two helicopters are together, working them all into the trap which is out of our view. There must be about 25 horses all at the same time headed toward the trap.

Finally we get the word that they have finished rounding up for the day. We are headed to the temporary pens to see the horses they removed today. We are told that we can see them after the horses receive food and water.

As soon as we are given the ok we drive into Salt Wells to the temporary holding area for the horses rounded up and Sue Cattoor gave us a tour of the horses. 63 total wild horses lost their freedom forever today: 24 mares, 20 stallions and 19 foals and yearlings. There were mercifully no injuries. The horses looked good, the babies were nursing, and all is pretty quiet except for a grey stallion who was calling to his mares and sparring with the other stallions in his pen.

The interesting thing about the roundup today is that the horses were very difficult to round up. Instead of the large groups they were anticipating, the horses came in in small groups and many only after a long hard chase and much driving back and forth. Most of the older horses have been through this before, and understandably want nothing to do with being trapped and having their families ripped away. And what happens when they are no longer more afraid of the helicopter than they are of being pushed into the trap? How then will the BLM keep rounding them up?

All day people have been commenting on my posts on Facebook, asking what is next, what can we do to end this? I wish I knew. There are no simple answers. I am here because it is what I can do for now.

Carol Walker, Plaintiff in Lawsuit to Stop Wyoming Roundups, on why this fight is personal

Wild Horses: Fighting to Save Wyoming’s Wild Horses is Personal

By Carol Walker, Director of Field Documentation, Wild Horse Freedom Federation

An Adobe Town Band Stallion Leads the Way

An Adobe Town Band Stallion Leads His Family

The fight to stop the BLM from its plan to eradicate wild horses from private and public land in three herds in the Red Desert of Wyoming is personal for me. On my first trip to Adobe Town in 2004, I fell in love with a gentle, battle-scarred grey stallion and his small, beautiful family. He ran right up to me and I waited, not knowing that this encounter would change my life forever. His filly came up next to her father and it looked as though she grinned at me. I had to keep coming back to see them, learn more about their lives, and photograph them as they as they are best portrayed, wild and free, at home in the dry, dramatic and isolated landscape of the Red Desert. I wrote my first book, Wild Hoofbeats: America’s Vanishing Wild Horses to let people know how magnificent these horses are, and that they deserve to live free.

The Grey Stallion and His Filly

The Grey Stallion and His Filly

Over the past 10 years I have traveled to Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek, and Great Divide Basin in all seasons of the year, even the depths of winter. One overwhelming thing stands out for me, after having driven thousands of miles on unmarked dirt roads in these Herd Management Areas – these horses are uniquely suited to this harsh and forbidding landscape and they belong there. They belong there more than the invasive and destructive cattle and sheep, and more than the land wrecking oil and gas drilling.

Four Grey Mares Run from the Helicopter in Adobe Town in 2010

Four Grey Mares Run from the Helicopter in Adobe Town in 2010

I am a plaintiff on a lawsuit to stop the BLM from removing over 800 wild horses from Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek, and Great Divide Basin. The roundups are scheduled to start in two weeks. http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/info/news_room/2014/july/18rsfo-removal.html

Without any care for Environmental Analysis, land use planning, or NEPA, the BLM announced its plans to proceed with these roundups and gave the public no opportunity to comment on their plans. Of course, the BLM ignores public comments anyway, but we were not even allowed to make our voices heard. The roundup was announced only 1 month before the start date, barely time to get a lawsuit in place, but we did, and the violations of the law and procedure are so glaring that I believe we have a very good chance of winning and stopping the BLM in its tracks.

READ THE REST OF THIS STORY AND FIND OUT WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP HERE.

Carol Walker’s blog is wildhoofbeats.com

Carol’s website is www.livingimagescjw.com

 

Video: Still Room for Wild Horses in Wyoming’s Red Desert? Part II

Range Observation by Carol Walker ~ Director of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Part One is located (HERE)

Photos by Carol Walker music by Opus Moon (available on iTunes)

CarolWalker025The next cold morning I head into Adobe Town before dawn.  The light is starting to color the sky pink in amongst the blue, and it is silent and still. I pass a wooden ramp used to load cattle and sheep into big trucks, and it is a reminder of the fiercely dominant livestock interests in this area.

It is Sunday, and I see only a few other vehicles today in the area.

I continue driving, looking for wild horses. I pull over and pull out my binoculars as I see a flash of white over a ridge. I see several horses, but have to hike out to them to get a closer look.  My boots crunch on the snow, and I am grateful that the wind is still for now.  As I get closer, even though I am hidden from their view by a small hill, the horses know I am coming.  It is a familiar band which I saw in the summer just after the little sorrel colt was born.  He looks healthy and very fuzzy, and his red roan mother who had been thin after his birth has filled back out.  This band has two stallions which is uncommon, the older grey stallion, and a younger bay who seems to be his lieutenant, staying alert for intruders.  The two stallions get along surprisingly well.  They look up as I slowly approach, but go back to grazing as they realize I am not coming any closer.

I walk back to my car and keep driving. Next, I see another familiar face – a gorgeous sorrel stallion with a flashy splash of a blaze on his face.  I had watching him dogging a grey stallion’s large family in the summer, and here he is still waiting for an opportunity to steal a mare or two.  The grey stallion is unconcerned by his presence, and moves his family across the road and up the hill as I watch and enjoy the sight of them moving out in the early morning light. There are several greys in this family, which is a common sight in Adobe Town. The two stallions peek over the hill at me as I drive away.

When I drive to another area of the range, I see fresh sheep droppings all along the road and on the sides, and I also notice that the ground has been stripped bare by the sheep.  The hundreds of sheep I had seen a day ago must have been moved out of the area. All they leave behind is their droppings.

The landscape in this area is incredibly dramatic, especially with a fresh coating of snow.

As I turn and pass the reservoir, I see a group of horses, and the stallion is a sorrel. Can it be? I have not seen the gorgeous sorrel stallion with the distinctive markings for over a year and half.  This is the area I used to see him in, and the area where I first encountered his family and his son Mica, the weanling colt that I adopted after he was rounded up in 2010. It is indeed Mica’s father, and his new family.  His gorgeous grey mare has a long flowing mane, and she wants nothing to do with me. He also has a sorrel mare and foal, and an older black colt.  The group stares at me before running into the sagebrush.  I actually get a second look at them the next morning, and Mica’s father moves protectively between me and the mars and foals, and after they move away, he wheels around and stares at me, bringing up the rear, before following them over the hill.

I am thrilled by the sight of them, by the proof that they are still wild and free in Adobe Town, after the 2010 roundup as well as after the roundup of two months ago.  They are healthy and strong and beautiful, uniquely suited to their home in the Red Desert.

As I leave the area, I see more antelope, and two bachelor stallions standing together in the wind.  One is white, clearly older, his hide littered with scars from many past fights.  The other stallion is much younger, his coat is still a dark grey, not yet lightened with age.  I wonder if they are father and son, or simply two bachelors keeping each other company. I drive away knowing I will be back tomorrow.

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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.

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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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Ranchers, BLM, Settle Suit Over WY Wild Horses: the Horses LOSE

By MEAD GRUVER as published in the San Francisco Chronicle

50% of the Wild Horses will lose their families, freedom and life as they know it

CHEYENNE, Wyo.  — A legal settlement between ranchers and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management would reduce wild horse numbers by about half on more than 4,300 square miles of sagebrush country in the Red Desert of southwest Wyoming.

Under the agreement, the BLM would allow no more than 1,050 wild horses in four herd areas, down from the current population of just under 2,000 horses in those areas north and south of Rock Springs. Many remaining horses would be sterilized or receive fertility control treatments so they don’t reproduce.

Wild horse advocacy groups that intervened in the case objected, saying Thursday that the settlement threatened to “wipe out” wild horses in the area.

The BLM contends that the settlement will maintain wild horses in southwest Wyoming while meeting a requirement under the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act for the government to remove wild horses from private property when requested to do so.

“We feel like this serves the objectives of the wild horse and burros act by retaining wild horses on the public lands while reducing landowner conflicts where the wild horses stray onto private lands,” BLM spokeswoman Beverly Gorny said Thursday. “That’s really the key issue in that particular area.”

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 settlement stems from a lawsuit filed in 2011 by the Rock Springs Grazing Association, a group of ranchers who run cattle on a vast area of southwest Wyoming known as the Checkerboard. The area is a mix of public and private land that dates to federal land grants for the Continental Railroad.

Not nearly enough fencing exists to keep wild horses off the Checkerboard’s private tracts. The result, ranchers say, is that horses damage the range and compete with cattle for forage.

The problem can be especially bad where cattle and horses alike congregate at water sources.

The association alleged the BLM allowed wild horse numbers to reach at least 4,700, almost three times the maximum number the BLM previously had agreed to allow in the early 1980s.

The association’s president, John Hay, of Rock Springs, declined to comment Thursday.

Wild horse advocacy groups — the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, The Cloud Foundation, and the International Society for the Preservation of Wild Mustangs and Burros — objected to the settlement.

“We are appalled that the court has put a seal of approval on the BLM’s plan to destroy some of Wyoming’s last remaining and most popular wild horse herds,” Suzanne Roy, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, said in a release.

Wild horse numbers will be reduced in four herd areas as follows:

—The Salt Wells herd area south of Rock Springs, which currently has 686 horses and is supposed to have been managed to sustain between 251 and 365 horses, will be managed for zero horses. Roundups will occur if the population exceeds 200.

—The Divide Basin herd area northeast of Rock Springs, currently home to 527 horses and managed for a population of between 415 and 600 horses, will be managed for zero horses. Roundups will occur if the population exceeds 100.

—The Adobe Town herd area southeast of Rock Springs, which now has 520 horses and is managed for between 619 and 800 horses, will be managed for between 225 and 450 horses under the settlement.

—The White Mountain herd area northwest of Rock Springs, which has 246 horses, would continue to be managed for between 205 and 300 horses but with a goal of keeping the population at the low end of that range.

The BLM would consider using fertility control methods, as well as spaying mares and gelding stallions, to limit the size of the White Mountain and Adobe Town herds.

Click (HERE) to visit the Chronicle and to Comment

Commercial Interests, Not Overpopulation, Behind Largest Wild Horse Roundup of 2010

From: American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and Western Watersheds Project

Obama’s “Wild Horse Harvesting Machine” has Shifted into High Gear

Photo by Carol Walker

Rock Springs, Wyoming (November 10, 2010) . . . . As one of the largest wild horse roundups in recent history enters its final week in southwest Wyoming, a coalition of environmental and wild horse conservationists is charging that commercial interests, not overpopulation, are the driving force behind the mass mustang removal. The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has previously claimed too many horses as the reason for the costly helicopter stampede and capture operation, which has killed at least seven mustangs to date.

The planned removal of over 2,100 wild horses makes the action in the Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek Herd Management Areas (HMAs) the largest wild horse roundup of 2010, according to the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign.

The BLM roundup will leave just 860 wild horses on a vast, 1.7-million acre range, a ratio of nearly 2,000 acres per horse. Meanwhile the BLM allows extensive livestock grazing in this designated wild horse area, allocating up to 13 times more water and forage to privately-owned livestock than to federally-protected wild horses.

It is disheartening to see the Obama Administration, which promised change, continue to mismanage our public lands for the benefit of private interests at the expense of the public,” said Jonathan Ratner, Wyoming Director of Western Watersheds Project. “Citizens are becoming increasingly aware of the high environmental and economic costs of livestock grazing on public lands. The wild horses are one of the many victims of this destructive policy.”

“It’s time for Wyoming to view its wild horse herds as an asset that will benefit tourism,” said Suzanne Roy, spokesperson for the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, noting that tourism is the largest revenue-generating industry in the state after mining, “Millions of tourists visit Wyoming each year to enjoy its spectacular lands and wildlife. Wild horses are an integral part of the state’s natural landscape. Wyoming’s mustang herds should be cherished and protected, not managed to extinction by an unscientific and outdated federal policy.”

The BLM has received over 10,000 public comments opposing the roundup which began on October 10. Last week, the agency announced that it was increasing the number of mustangs targeted for removal, changing its roundup plan without environmental review or public comment. The roundup will now remove one-quarter to one-third of the state’s entire wild horse population.

The lives of the famed wild horses of Adobe Town in Wyoming’s pristine Red Desert region have been chronicled by wildlife photographer Carol Walker in her book Wild Hoofbeats. Walker has also been publishing her observations and photographs of the roundup.

Wild horses comprise a small fraction of grazing animals on public lands, where they are outnumbered by livestock nearly 50 to 1. The BLM has recently increased cattle grazing allotments in areas where wild horses are being removed. Livestock grazing is authorized on 160 million acres of BLM land, while wild horses are restricted to just 26 million acres, which they must share with livestock. The Interior Department intends to remove 12,000 wild horses and burros from public lands in Fiscal Year 2010, with a similar number targeted for 2011. Currently, the government warehouses more than 38,000 wild horses in government holding facilities, a number that now exceeds the population left on free on the range.