Expert Report Refutes Scientific Basis & Rationale for Wyoming Wild Horse Roundup

Coalition Calls Upon BLM to Reconsider Decision to Roundup of 700 Mustangs Scheduled to Begin Aug. 20

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, a national coalition of more than 45 organizations, this week released a Range Resource Report by a former BLM range manager that refutes the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) rationale for the proposed roundup and removal of nearly 700 wild horses living in two Herd Management Areas (HMAs) in southwestern Wyoming.

The BLM has claimed that it must remove the horses from the White Mountain and Little Colorado HMAs in order to maintain the “thriving natural ecological balance,” a finding required for removal of so-called excess horses under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. However, the report commissioned by AWHPC and prepared by Robert Edwards, a retired BLM range management specialist from Utah, concludes that “The wild horses do not need to be removed in order to achieve the goal of achieving a thriving natural ecological balance, and removing horses will not achieve that goal.”

The report explains, “Removing a large percentage of the wild horses is not likely to result in an improvement of range condition since the percentage of forage allocated to wild horses is very small compared to the amount of forage allocated to livestock. (The forage allocation for wild horse use is only 2% to 3% of the total forage allocation for these HMAs.)”

Other key findings of the report include:

  • There is no emergency situation requiring removal of the horses.
  • Forage resources in the HMA are adequate to support the horses and horses are in good condition.
  • BLM management practices – not wild horse numbers -- may be responsible for any potential impacts that horses are having to the range. Particularly questionable is an apparent BLM policy of turning wells on and off to accommodate livestock use, a practice that would force horses to congregate in a smaller number of areas where water is available.
  • BLM lacks data to distinguish range impacts caused by horses vs. livestock. At least one BLM monitoring site showed evidence of current horse and cattle use, yet BLM attributed range impacts solely to horses.

Based on this report, AWHPC has asked the BLM to reconsider its decision to move forward with the roundup, which is now scheduled to begin August 20, 2011.

“The findings of this report – prepared by a range expert with a 30-year work experience at BLM – highlights the lack of scientific justification for the BLM’s decision to remove 696 wild horses from the White Mountain and Little Colorado Herd Management Areas,” said Suzanne Roy, AWHPC Campaign Director. “Therefore, AWHPC calls for an immediate suspension of all plans to roundup wild horses from this area and reconsideration of the Second Modified Decision which implements this unnecessary and illegal plan.”

The BLM has received over 10,000 public comments opposing the roundup of White Mountain and Little Colorado Mustangs. The agency has changed course four times regarding its plans for these HMAs:

  • In April 2011, BLM issued an Environmental Assessment that described a Proposed Action to roundup 90 percent of the estimated 970 horses living in the two HMAs and return 89 stallions and 50 mares treated with a fertility control vaccine to the range.
  • On June 13, 2011, the BLM issued a Decision Record announcing that it was discarding the Proposed Action and implementing an alternative to convert these two viable, free-roaming wild horse populations to non-reproducing herds by returning only spayed mares and castrated stallions to the range.
  • On June 22, 2011, the BLM issued a “Modified Decision Record” rescinding its plan to spay mares (a complicated procedure rarely performed on domestic, let alone, wild horses) and would return only castrated stallions to the range.
  • On August 4, 2011, the BLM issued a “Second Modified Decision Record” after being sued by AWHPC, Western Watersheds, wildlife photographer Carol Walker and a Green River, Wyo. couple over the stallion castration plan. The new decision document implements the Proposed Action originally described in the Environmental Assessment.

For more information, please see visit the AWHPC Wyoming Wild Horse Roundup webpage here.

About the AWHPC

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 40 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. For more information, visit www.wildhorsepreservation.org.