Wyoming agriculture officials are one step closer to granting researchers a portion of $250,000 allocated by Gov. Matt Mead for wild horse research in the state.
The department received more than 10 proposals for grant-funded research projects, with topics ranging from wild horses’ interaction with the range to population control methods.
“Our goal is to get information and specific data that is lacking or that the BLM doesn’t have,” said Chris Wichmann, natural resource and policy manager at the Wyoming Department of Agriculture. “We want actual data on the ground that can help the state and BLM with the management of wild horses.”
Money will be divided into three categories for grant approval:
- Wild horse populations and statistical methods
- Wildlife and rangeland conditions
- Development of a wild horse scientific summit.
Wyoming agriculture industry leaders say the data could help steer the wild horse conversation away from emotion and toward science.
“We need to bring the discussion back to management of the resource on public and private lands as opposed to horses versus cows,” said Jim Magagna, executive director of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. “Some solid data with regard to forage consumption and related issues could be helpful in doing that.”
Ken Hamilton, the executive director of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, said that the money may not be enough to solve the issue but that it will provide data for a scientific start to finding solutions.
“With this issue, it is extremely important to try to work for a solution,” Hamilton said. “The current solutions we have are just stopgap measures.”
The agriculture department will work with a panel of four legislators, including agriculture committee chairmen Sen. Gerald Geis, R-Worland, and Rep. Robert McKim, R-Afton.
A decision is expected in late January and early February.
Reach general assignment reporter Trevor Graff at 307-266-0639 or Trevor.Graff@trib.com. Follow him on Twitter @TrevGraff.