From: American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and Western Watersheds Project

Obama’s “Wild Horse Harvesting Machine” has Shifted into High Gear

Photo by Carol Walker

Rock Springs, Wyoming (November 10, 2010) . . . . As one of the largest wild horse roundups in recent history enters its final week in southwest Wyoming, a coalition of environmental and wild horse conservationists is charging that commercial interests, not overpopulation, are the driving force behind the mass mustang removal. The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has previously claimed too many horses as the reason for the costly helicopter stampede and capture operation, which has killed at least seven mustangs to date.

The planned removal of over 2,100 wild horses makes the action in the Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek Herd Management Areas (HMAs) the largest wild horse roundup of 2010, according to the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign.

The BLM roundup will leave just 860 wild horses on a vast, 1.7-million acre range, a ratio of nearly 2,000 acres per horse. Meanwhile the BLM allows extensive livestock grazing in this designated wild horse area, allocating up to 13 times more water and forage to privately-owned livestock than to federally-protected wild horses.

It is disheartening to see the Obama Administration, which promised change, continue to mismanage our public lands for the benefit of private interests at the expense of the public,” said Jonathan Ratner, Wyoming Director of Western Watersheds Project. “Citizens are becoming increasingly aware of the high environmental and economic costs of livestock grazing on public lands. The wild horses are one of the many victims of this destructive policy.”

“It’s time for Wyoming to view its wild horse herds as an asset that will benefit tourism,” said Suzanne Roy, spokesperson for the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, noting that tourism is the largest revenue-generating industry in the state after mining, “Millions of tourists visit Wyoming each year to enjoy its spectacular lands and wildlife. Wild horses are an integral part of the state’s natural landscape. Wyoming’s mustang herds should be cherished and protected, not managed to extinction by an unscientific and outdated federal policy.”

The BLM has received over 10,000 public comments opposing the roundup which began on October 10. Last week, the agency announced that it was increasing the number of mustangs targeted for removal, changing its roundup plan without environmental review or public comment. The roundup will now remove one-quarter to one-third of the state’s entire wild horse population.

The lives of the famed wild horses of Adobe Town in Wyoming’s pristine Red Desertregion have been chronicled by wildlife photographer Carol Walker in her book Wild Hoofbeats. Walker has also been publishing her observations and photographs of the roundup.

Wild horses comprise a small fraction of grazing animals on public lands, where they are outnumbered by livestock nearly 50 to 1. The BLM has recently increased cattle grazing allotments in areas where wild horses are being removed. Livestock grazing is authorized on 160 million acres of BLM land, while wild horses are restricted to just 26 million acres, which they must share with livestock. The Interior Department intends to remove 12,000 wild horses and burros from public lands in Fiscal Year 2010, with a similar number targeted for 2011. Currently, the government warehouses more than 38,000 wild horses in government holding facilities, a number that now exceeds the population left on free on the range.