A horse advocacy group is accusing the Bureau of Land Management of removing more wild horses from public lands in southern Wyoming than it is legally permitted to do by not counting young horses.
The BLM began a roundup late last month of horses in the checkerboard region along Interstate 80 near Rock Springs, intending to remove 1,560 horses from three management areas.
But the American Wild Horse Campaign claims in a press release that the agency is not including foals or weanlings in its removal tally, pushing the actual number of horses being removed to almost 2,000.
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“The BLM has found a new way to wipe out Wyoming’s wild horses by pretending that young horses don’t count,” Suzanne Roy, the organization’s director, said in a statement. AWHC has clashed with the BLM repeatedly over the management of wild horses in Wyoming and across western states.
As of last week, the organization said that the BLM had removed 298 horses from the range during the roundup and that 52 of those were foals, which were not counted toward the total removal goal.
“BLM did not count the foals,” agency spokeswoman Cindy Wertz confirmed. She said the agency does not count foals in the population or removal totals until Jan. 1 of the year following their birth.
The current roundup is the result of two rounds of litigation between livestock operators in the area, wild horse advocates and the federal government.
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The Rock Springs Grazing Association reached a settlement with the BLM in 2013, requiring the BLM to periodically remove wild horses from the “checkerboard” region along I-80 where public and private parcels of land are interspersed.
Following that settlement, the BLM sought to remove all horses from a portion of the checkerboard, arguing that it was impossible to keep the wild horses — which are protected under federal law — from straying onto the private parcels.
Wild horse advocates sued, and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last fall that the BLM’s attempt to remove all horses from the region violated the federal Wild Horses Act.
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“(T)hough the BLM’s solution to the problem presented by the checkerboard may seem reasonable, it is not in accordance with the [law],” wrote Judge Monroe McKay.
The current roundup is based on that judgment.
Arno Rosenfeld covers state politics.