Federal authorities propose to remove 500 wild horses from Wyoming’s Checkerboard lands, so-named because of its alternating public and private land parcels.
The Rock Springs Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposes to remove all the wild horses from the Checkerboard lands within and outside of the Great Divide Basin, Salt Wells Creek, and Adobe Town herd management areas (HMAs).
The three HMAs total about 2,427,220 acres, with 1,242,176 acres falling within the Checkerboard region.
The BLM says wild horses found within contiguous solid block lands in the HMAs will not be gathered.
The agency says 2015 population surveys revealed that about 232 wild horses lived on Checkerboard lands within the Great Divide Basin HMA, about 242 on Checkerboard lands within the Salt Wells Creek HMA, and around 26 wild horses on the Checkerboard lands within the Adobe Town HMA.
It said the wild horse populations on the Checkerboard lands exceeded the limits laid out in a 2013 Consent Decree, therefore triggering their removal.
The BLM is seeking public input ahead of its environmental assessment. Comments must be lodged by April 22.
Plans for musters within the Checkerboard lands have proved controversial in recent years, with wild horse advocates challenging the process through the courts.
The BLM removed nearly 1300 wild horses from the Checkerboard lands in 2014, but were challenged over aspects of the operation.
In March last year, US District Court of Wyoming Chief Judge Nancy Freudenthal ruled that the BLM had authorized the roundup without analyzing any of the environmental consequences of a wild horse roundup of such a magnitude, or reasonable alternatives to such as action, as required by the environmental act.
However, in the same decision, Judge Freudenthal denied claims that the BLM violated the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.
In 2013, the BLM entered into an agreement with the Rock Springs Grazing Association in which the agency agreed to remove all the wild horses from association’s private lands on the Checkerboard and to consider, through the appropriate public process, zeroing out the wild horse populations in this area.
Wild horse advocates argue that the deal essentially turned the public lands over to ranchers who graze livestock.
A copy of the project map and additional details on the latest proposed muster can be found here.