Jena Doak, [email protected]
SWEETWATER COUNTY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2021 — In October, the Rock Springs Bureau of Land Management will begin wild horse gathering operations on the five designated Herd Management Areas in Southwest Wyoming. By method of helicopter roundups, they will gather an estimated 3,500 horses.
The MARR Plan Action Team in Rock Springs will be holding a peaceful rally on Friday, September 24, at the Rock Springs BLM office located at 280 US Highway191 in Rock Springs.
According to Acting Deputy State Director of Communications for BLM, Brad Purdy, the current estimated population of wild horses on the five HMAs is around 5,100. By law, BLM must maintain an appropriate management level of between 1,500 and 2,145 horses. In addition to the 3,500 that will be removed, several extra mares will be gathered, given birth control, and returned to the range.
The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 covers the management, safety, and study of “unbranded and unclaimed horses and burros on public lands in the United States.” Since then, BLM has been gathering excess numbers and adopting them out. Horses that are not adopted are held in long-term facilities.
Wild horse advocates care about the health and wellbeing of the animals. One thing they protest is the holding of unadopted horses for many years in confined holding spaces. It is true that in recent years, adoption rates have not kept up with removal rates, and that some horses are diverted to long-term holding facilities.
But according to Purdy, the unadopted horses have plenty of space to run and to graze.
“They go to range corals and wild horse eco-sanctuaries, which are often located on privately owned ranches. Saying that those that don’t get adopted are confined to small areas, I don’t think is sincere,” Purdy said.
One thing that wild horse advocates believe is that horses that are not adopted are euthanized as a means of population control. According to Purdy, this isn’t true.
“BLM is not allowed to euthanize horses, which is why we do the gathering and the adoptions,” Purdy said.
Private citizen Debbie Hayes, who is helping to coordinate Friday’s rally, has another objection.
“The removal of these horses will wipe out the horse population on two of the HMAs.”
Hayes has been involved in protecting wild horses and burros since retirement. She fights to reform what many people consider cruel and costly federal roundup programs.