Wild horses: Wyoming herds headed for politically driven roundup?

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In the stampede of controversy over efforts to remove thousands of wild horses from public lands, few states have sent out more mixed messages than Wyoming, which features a bucking bronc on its license plate and urges tourists to take a "wild horse scenic loop tour" -- while pushing the feds to remove 70 percent of the herds along that scenic loop.

The Cowboy State's hypocrisy gets a drubbing in this post at The Atlantic by CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen. It's one of a series of pieces by Cohen trying to decipher the Department of the Interior's convoluted wild-horse management policy, which has undergone several gyrations under Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

Bureau of Land Management officials say roundups like the one planned in Wyoming, which proposes to remove 700 horses from the Little Colorado and White Mountain herd management areas, are necessary because the horses have overpopulated their range. Horse advocates maintain that the roundups injure and kill horses, condemn them to additional suffering and neglect in costly temporary pastures or holding pens, and are driven by livestock grazing interests rather than science.

Cohen's take? "With friends like the BLM and Wyoming state officials, the horses and their human supporters don't need any enemies," he writes.

Cohen points out that the government's notion of what makes for a "sustainable" population of horses on public lands is a very slippery figure. Wyoming ranchers (and the state, which has joined in some of the litigation over the herds) say that the targeted area -- which amounts to 850,000 acres! -- can only sustain 300 horses. But even if the herds were allowed to remain at their current size, that's only one horse for every 850 acres. The problem, Cohen notes, is that livestock use that land, too, at a rate that amounts to nine times the forage allocated to the horses.

A report prepared for horse activists by a former BLM scientist suggests there's plenty of federal land in Wyoming for horses and livestock. But that's not what the ranchers want to hear.

"The governor of Wyoming is a rancher," Cohen notes. "The Secretary of the Interior is a rancher... The war is eternal and the horses almost always lose."

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Sheryl Crow Frontier Days flap leads to 'generous donation' to wild horse advocates."

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Annie
Annie

Would it not be possible to buy the grazing rights for our public lands and give the land back to the horses?  Or do the same welfare cattle ranchers "own" the property rights from year to year? Would it be that difficult to outbid the cattlemen for the public grazing rights?   It seems it would be easier to leave the horses where they are instead of what Picken's is doing - buying more land because BLM is turning our public land over to private ranchers.

Guest
Guest

Yes, that is an obvious solution.  The difficult part is it's hard to get ranchers to let loose of "their land" when it's an asset and part of the real estate value when they sell.  But it does happen and needs to happen more, because many of those leases lie dormant--no-grazing- and the horses could have at it.  Western Watersheds has been successful at this too.

Pmequine
Pmequine

Thank you Andrew Cohen for being the voice fir the horses when the law and people that love them are unable to help. This grazing issue at the heart of this illegal roundup is all about $$. And face it, the ranchers have plenty. Our Congress and Senate dont listen, they don't want to be bothered with animal rights issues. Enforce your own Congressional law!!! Don't let a rancher do it. That's like letting the cyotes watch the chicken coup.

LindaH
LindaH

I have visited the White Mtn. WY area near Rock Springs, and people go out there several times a month and exclaim that there are nowhere the number of horses the BLM professes  If they leave 300, the herd will essentially be gone, zeroed out.  I confirm, after attending a public hearing in June, the attitude was confirmed that the ranchers consider public land as "their land."  One of the ranchers walked up to me and another person and said that "you need to get those goddamned horses off our land."  I guess eminent domain plays into their plan.  The wild horses we observed on that range were fat and healthy, to confirm the fact that they don't subsist on grassy meadows, but native grasses, sagebrush, etc.  Contrary to what the BLM would lead us to believe, they thrive on the arid desert of WY, UT, CO, NV, etc.  They evolved on these lands, and that's why it's such a healthy environment for them.  Grassy meadows in the midwest are the last thing they need, but most of the horses BLM rounds up will go to Long Term Holding Pens in the midwest.  Those lucrative leases are another caveat for midwestern ranchers, at the expense of the horses' freedom and our (taxpayers) pocketbooks.  (40,000 wild horses are now in holding pens and less than 20,000 are left in the wild).  WY is on a rampage to eradicate the wild horses--the state in which the first protected wild horse range was established.

Edie
Edie

Linda  you are right...I just left Pinedale Wyoming after a two month stay there, I had the opportunity to talk to the locals and browse the Information center collecting  a bagfull of brochures, maps, posters and scenic tour guides all for the Wild Horses.  Im telling you this town is dedicated to the Wild Horse tourism because it brings half of the towns economy...The hunting and water recreation share about equal parts for the other half...The gift stores are full of wild horse ceramics, jewelry, postcards, calendars, etc etc.The brochures that are being given out are so wrong they are almost blatant false advertising, full of misleading info such as that the BLM maintains the herds to 2,600 which is the number of horses that the public land can support.,  and that the private land owners allow the horses to roam through parts of their land to make sure they can get to water....The areas surrounding the public lands are so green and saturated that there are areas where there is water bubbling up through the gravel on the side of the hwy!  There are more lakes and streams, and brooks and rivers concentrated in this southwestern part of wyomng all the way up to yellowstone than Ive seen anywhere all year long because of the snow melt on the Rockies.   There is plenty of water for horses, cattle sheep and anything else that is thirsty...until the snow stops falling on the Rockies!   But the areas where the horses are is dry and without trees.  It is mesa and sandy type gulleys. I suppose their water allotment is down towards the  green River area....Then I started seeing the cattle everywhere herds upon herds in the lushest most resource rich areas of the area..I never did see a Wild Horse.. I feel cheated and dissapointed.

JadeH49
JadeH49

Having been involved in this battle for 2 years (and many more people have been at it longer!) I truly fed up with my government and the BLM agency!  The lies, the animals cruelty, the different figures (depending on who is reporting), even the advocates out there this past January who topped a hill (while trying to find a cell phone signal) were met by 6-7 cattle trucks unloading cattle on the ground that had just been cleared of wild horses and the trucks loaded with thos horses were pulling out the other direction AND were braced by someone with the cattle trucks and asked "what are you doing on OUR land?"  I have often been critical of my country/government's decision on a variety of subjects, but this is the first time I am ashamed - not only of my country, but of being human as well.

Edie Brier
Edie Brier

I feel the same exact way...ashamed to be human.  When I hear or read another atrocity perpetuated against the American wild Horse,  I almost want to hit myself, so bad is my desire to lash out and slay the dragon!  I think to myself every day..Really? Is this really how far down the people of this great nation have been buried under the lies, and tactics of  a bureaucracy with an agenda that is being played out in front our eyes?  We ask decently, appropriately, and within the guidelines of political protocol we protest and still in the roar of a world in constant chaos our voices are ignored.  Shame on those who could have saved the wonders of a free and living world for our children and theirs and didnt.  Welcome to Orweilla

Annie
Annie

I agree with you.  It would be easier to deal with this if we could simply out-bid the ranchers for grazing rights and take our public lands back from the cattlemen, then sue the government for reimbursement of the grazing fee paid for horses who were already entitled the land as their federal rights.

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