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Wild horse advocates oppose state’s bid to intervene in court case

Wild horses in Wyoming.

Wild horses in Wyoming. © BLM

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.

Earlier report

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Comments (7)

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  1. Cindy Steele says:

    Thank you for keeping us Informed we all must fight to keep our Wild horses Wild. & Free !

  2. carla Tillman says:

    Gov Mead is a rancher and what ranchers want in Wyoming ranchers get.

  3. dk says:

    Thank you so very, very much, for covering this story. Thank you also to the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, the Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom, Carol Walker, and Kimerlee Curyl.

  4. Scott says:

    It’s all about balance. From the very beginning 150 years ago the reason public lands were even created was to protect water shed environments for farming and ranching activities in order to benefit the whole country. If you think the ranchers and farmers “profit from taxpayer-subsidized public lands grazing” and are becoming rich or otherwise unfairly exploiting resources you better read your history. These “ranchers” are not rich, most are barely breaking even. A lot are going out of business. From what I’ve seen, they are better stewards of the land than ANYBODY because it’s vital to them to keep their land’s ecology healthy and productive, which also benefits the wild horse herds and other wildlife. Balance is necessary, but if we continue on the same track we are on, we will be dominated by huge faceless corporate ranches which will wield far more damaging influence with government in order to bend the rules for the sake of more money. Be careful what you ask for.

  5. Bill says:

    Scott, are you suggesting that the ranchers already have “damaging influence with government”? Ranchers stay in business because its profitable. If they go out of business, its probably due to the reality that agriculture is one of the riskiest businesses to be engaged in. I agree, we would be better off with smaller farms and ranches, for many reasons. But policy, not horses, is why we are seeing the number of ranches and farms shrink while remaining farm and ranches increase in size. The horses have become just another pawn in a national power struggle.

  6. Danielle says:

    Is there anything people outside of WY can do to help? Any petitions, phone calls, etc?

  7. N Green says:

    I resent the public lands being used by these ranchers. These wild horses should be allowed to stay on these lands. This is their home and has been for hundreds of years. These ranchers and the BLM are determined to wipe all the wild horses off the lands and all for the almighty dollar. I plan to visit the West one day and I would like to see my tax dollars at work with wild horses on public lands. Hopefully, one day there will be a person in charge of the BLM that can’t be swayed by the rich ranchers and understands the importance and history of the wild horses.

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