Wild horse advocates fighting a legal battle to stop the removal of mustangs from Wyoming’s so-called checkerboard lands are opposing efforts by the state to intervene in their case against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Governor Matt Mead has voiced his support for the roundup targeting more than 800 horses and said the state would seek to intervene in the case
However, the plaintiffs in the action, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, the Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom, Carol Walker, and Kimerlee Curyl this week filed papers opposing Wyoming’s motion to intervene in the lawsuit.
The BLM wants to round up more than 800 wild horses from the Adobe Town, Salt Wells and Great Divide Basin herd management areas, which include significant areas of the checkerboard lands – so-named because of its alternating public and private land parcels.
The three HMAs total about 2,427,220 acres, with 1,242,176 acres falling within the checkerboard region
Under the muster plan, some wild horses will remain in the non-checkerboard sections of the HMAs.
The BLM’s removal of the horses from the checkerboard lands is part of a deal with local ranchers.
The wild horse advocates expressed their disappointment over the governor’s position, suggesting the public were being misled over the facts.
“We are further troubled that the governor is taking a stand in support of the BLM’s flagrant violations of federal law and its own land-use plans,” they said in a statement.
“In his statement, Governor Mead makes numerous misrepresentations about the situation,” they asserted.
The plaintiffs stressed that the BLM intended to remove wild horses from private and public lands in the AdobeTown, Salt Wells and Great Divide Basin HMAs, not just private lands.
The state, they said, had no “sovereign right” to manage wild horses, which have federal protection under the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, passed unanimously by Congress in 1971.
The state, they noted, owned less that 4 percent of the land in these three herd management areas and an even smaller percentage on the checkerboard lands in question.
“There is no overpopulation of horses in this area, and in fact, the proposed roundup will bring the populations below even BLM’s own established levels in violation of the Wild Horse Act and the BLM’s Resource Management Plans for these areas,” they said.
“In his statement, the governor makes numerous other erroneous claims regarding wild horse impacts.
“If the environment and wildlife species are suffering in the area, it is due to the massive number of privately owned livestock grazing on these lands, not to the relatively few wild horses that inhabit the area.
“In fact, the BLM authorizes 10 times more livestock than wild horses to graze in this area – a maximum of 1765 wild horses on 2.4 million acres of land versus the annual equivalent of 17,609 cow/calf pairs in the same land area.
“We urge Governor Mead to remember that America’s public lands belong to all Americans, not just to a small number of ranchers who profit from taxpayer-subsidized public lands grazing.
“In fact, a strong majority of Americans support protecting and preserving wild horses on our public lands, while less than a third want to ensure that our public lands are available for livestock grazing.
“Instead of intervening in support of the BLM’s blatantly illegal actions, the governor should use the leadership of his office to resolve conflicts between ranchers and wild horses, such as encouraging land swaps in checkerboard areas (alternating parcels of public and private lands) to create contiguous habitat for wild horses and other protected wildlife.”
The roundup, originally set for August 20, was delayed until at least September 1 by the BLM to allow the court to rule in the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs in the case are represented by the public interest Washington DC law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.