Wild horse advocates fear it may soon be checkmate against Wyoming’s wild horses that inhabit the so-called checkerboard lands in the state.
Submissions close today on a Bureau of Land Management proposal for a roundup in the Adobe Town/Salt Wells (ATSW) Complex, which is comprised of the Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek herd management areas (HMAs)
The planned roundup of about 580 horses is being considered just a week after a two-year review by an independent committee of the National Academy of Sciences found that the current strategy of capturing and stockpiling mustangs in long-term holding facilities was both costly and unsustainable.
The group, American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), fears the roundup is the first step in a plan to eliminate wild horses from 2 million acres of protected habitat.
It has been urging wild horse advocates to put in submissions to the bureau opposing the muster, with a June 10 deadline.
It would be the second roundup in the area in less than three years, the group says.
Of particular concern is the proposal in the bureau’s environmental assessment that: “All wild horses on private lands and on the checkerboard lands within the ATSW Complex would be removed.”
The AWHPC says: “Since the majority of the Salt Wells HMA is ‘checkerboard’ – alternating public and private land parcels – and since the wild horses living there cannot tell the difference between public and private land, this action will ‘zero out’ the majority of this HMA.”
It claims the bureau is planning the roundup at the behest of local graziers who successfully filed a lawsuit against the bureau seeking removal of all wild horses from the 2 million acre swath of land known as the “Wyoming Checkerboard”.
“The Adobe Town/Salt Wells roundup is step one in a destructive plan that will negatively impact half of the state’s remaining wild horses,” the AWHPC says.
The Cloud Foundation has also urged supporters to oppose the roundup, saying the only horses that would be allowed to remain under the proposal would be in the southern portion of the herd.
The foundation says the muster is to appease the interest of ranchers.
“This destructive plan would take place as early as this August, adding to the business as usual, taxpayer-funded incarceration of our American wild horses,” it says.
The foundation noted that wild horses were allocated only 20 per cent of the forage, with the rest available to ranchers.
The bureau had not assessed the rangeland health of 11 out of the 22 grazing allotments in the herd management area in at least a decade, it said.