Photo by Living Images by Carol Walker
In Wyoming, the fix against wild horses has been in since 2010. That's when former Assistant Interior Secretary Sylvia Baca advised the Rock Springs Grazing Association (RSGA) to sue the Interior Department as a strategy to secure funding for wild horse roundups. The strategy worked: On July 27, 2011, the RSGA sued the Interior Department, seeking the removal of all the wild horses in the Wyoming Checkerboard, a two million acre swath of alternating parcels of public and private land in the southern part of the state. The move affects four major wild horse Herd Management Areas in Wyoming -- Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek, Great Divide Basin and the White Mountain -- where half of the state's remaining wild horse populations reside.
AWHPC, The Cloud Foundation, the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros and wild horse photographer Carol Walker were granted the right to intervene in the case. Nevertheless, as expected, the government settled the case by giving the RSGA what they wanted -- the destruction of the wild herds in this critically-important habitat region. The consent decree was approved by Judge Nancy Freudenthal, wife of former Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal, who was very anti-wild horse during his tenure in Cheyenne. In the decree, the Bureau of Land Management agreed to: zero out the Salt Wells Creek and Divide Basin HMAs, cut the allowable population level in Adobe Town by half or more, and sterilize all the horses in the White Mountain HMA. The BLM then mischaracterize this agreement as a court order to remove all the horses in the Checkerboard, and used it as an excuse to violate both the National Environmental Policy Act and the Wild Horse Act in yearly roundups in this area.
The government's betrayal of Wyoming mustangs was exposed by award-winning journalist Andrew Cohen in a series of articles, including How the Department of Interior Sold Out America's Wild Horses.