Grazing Board addresses wild horse issuesWritten by Christy Hemken
“We’ve reorganized the ag-based horse committee, which is sponsored by the Wyoming State Grazing Board, to work with the ag industry on the issue of wild horses,” says Loper.
Although the group hasn’t been active for a while, he says it became active again because of budget problems with the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program. “They’re having a difficult time coming up with sustainable budgets, and the amount of money going into long-term facilities is bigger and bigger each year,” he says.
“We decided to become more active because of the BLM’s consent decree with Wyoming, of which they are out of compliance,” says Loper, noting there’s been communication between Wyoming’s Attorney General and the Wyoming BLM office.
“Our group will do what we can with the Attorney General, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and the local BLM to try to encourage the BLM to follow through on their plans to get back in compliance,” he explains.
Wyoming Wild Horse and Burro Program Lead Alan Shepherd says the state BLM’s goal is to get back into the roundup schedule that was missed last fall. “We’ll continue with what we need to do for the 2009 year with a two-stage approach,” he says.
Gathers this summer will include 750 horses from the North Lander area, which is north of Jeffrey City and Sweetwater Station. This fall the BLM plans to gather the Red Desert area, which runs from Jeffrey City south to Rawlins in the Green Mountain area, which includes five Herd Management Areas (HMA’s). Two Big Horn Basin areas will also be included, McCullough Peaks and the 15-Mile HMA near Worland.
“Those roundups will take close to 900 horses, including this year’s foals,” says Shepherd. “If we get to accomplish those, that should put us back into compliance.”
Loper worries that because of the dire situation in Nevada, where the BLM is only rounding up horses in extraordinary crisis situations, Wyoming will lose its roundup money for 2009. “We in Wyoming don’t have horses dying for lack of forage and water, but we’re trying to manage our numbers so we don’t get into that position,” he says.
Loper says he’s concerned Wyoming will lose its funding before the state BLM gets a chance to conduct fall roundups. “While there’s an appreciation for their emergency situation, it’s frustrating in Wyoming to lose those funds to Nevada.”
“We felt it was time to get back involved in the process,” says Loper of the Committee. “We’ll try to help on the publicity part of it and try to move the horses that are rounded up to good homes as best we can.”
Loper mentions a previously existing Wyoming pilot program where private individuals could go to the BLM and put in for a number of horses to maintain on private property. The BLM would pay those landowners $1,800 per horse if they’d agree to keep the horse at least five years.
“That saved the government and the public a lot of money, because if you put that same horse in long-term holding it would cost $11,000 or $12,000 over the life of that horse,” says Loper. “We’re going to try to revive that pilot project because we know it would be less expensive and get horses into better homes.”
Shepherd says he’s not sure if the pilot program will be reinstated, although it will be an option discussed at an upcoming 10-day meeting of the national Wild Horse and Burro Program leads and Washington, D.C. staff. He says the purpose of the meeting is to discuss budgets and strategy and how the BLM will deal with budget shortcomings and the volume of horses it has. A member of the Wild Horse and Burro Program Advisory Board will also be present at the meeting.
The Wyoming Wild Horse Committee is composed of Chairman Rick Myers of Baggs, rancher Niels Hansen of Rawlins, Don Schramm of the Rock Springs Grazing Association, Beaver Rim rancher Jack Corbett, Cody rancher Mark McCarty and the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and the Wyoming Livestock Board.
Loper says the Wyoming Livestock Board is involved because of the growing problem of privately owned horses being let loose on public lands. “We’re now seeing in Wyoming these branded horses that people can’t or won’t take care of,” he says.
He says the Committee is trying to become geographically spread across the state with any ranchers involved with wild horses. “We’re trying to be as helpful as we can to keep horses within the management numbers in Wyoming,” he notes. “We’ll be actively involved as this moves forward because we want the horses to be managed in concert with the other multiple uses on public lands.”