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Natural Resources & Energy

BLM looks for public comment on its Rock Springs and Rawlins wild horse management plan 

Wild horses released on BLM land outside Rock Springs.
Caitlin Tan
/
Wyoming Public Radio
Nine mares return to BLM land after being treated with fertility control. They were part of the Red Desert BLM roundup that gathered more than 4,000 wild horses between last fall and January.

A 12-year saga between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Rock Springs Grazing Association is nearing an end with a potential reduction in wild horses in Sweetwater and Carbon counties. But the proposal first needs to be reviewed by the public.

In 2010, the Rock Springs Grazing Association removed their consent to allow wild horses to roam on private lands. Three years later, a federal court mandated the BLM find alternatives for wild horse management.

Since then the BLM has had several roundups in those areas. Starting in November, almost 80 percent of wild horses were gathered in the Rock Springs herd management areas (HMA).

But, more has to be done to keep the horses off private land, according to the BLM. And doing so is tricky, said Brady Purdy, acting deputy state director of the BLM.

“Really what this boils down to is a lot of the herd management areas over there and Rock Springs contain large amounts of checkerboard lands, which are those alternating lands along the I-80 corridor that switch from private to public, private to public,” Purdy said. “And it's called the checkerboard because when you look at it, it does look like a big checkerboard.”

The BLM is proposing to reduce the herd size in the Adobe Town HMA between 259 and 536 horses and in the White Mountain HMA between 205 and 300. Wild horse herds would be eliminated through gathers and relocation in the Great Divide Basin and Salt Wells Creek areas. This plan is one of four options the BLM explored.

Under this proposed plan there would be a total of 464 to 836 wild horses in the areas. With no action, the BLM estimated a total herd size of 1,481 to 2,065 horses.

Erik Molvar, executive director of the Western Watersheds Project, said removing the horses is not the answer.

“The obvious solution to all of this is to have a consolidation of the checkerboard so that the private lands are consolidated, and the public lands are consolidated,” he said.

Molvar said this could be done through eminent domain. However, in the four alternatives proposed by the BLM, this was not an option for herd management.

The BLM is taking public comment until June 6 on their proposed plan.

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