SUPERIOR — Their manes and tails flying in the air, the wild horses trot, canter and gallop ahead of the buzzing, weaving helicopter.

The band of five dodges and jukes as the helicopter darts to and fro trying to drive them toward two hundred-yard long jute fences set in a “V”. At the V’s far end stands the trap corral where their freedom to roam, and impact, the range would end.

Once in the corral with the gate shut behind them, the free-ranging feral horses would become part of the Bureau of Land Management’s removal and reduction program, one that seeks to round up 4,300 wild horses in coming months.

But this band won’t bite.

After being pushed by the helicopter for miles, the group charges away from the mouth of the trap, splits apart, runs up a steep hillside and regroups. It’s pushed back toward the trap only to evade, again and again, the aim of the herding pilot.

Finally, contract wranglers and the BLM call off the pursuit, likely to avoid exhausting the band as outlined in roundup guidelines.

This band will go free, at least today.

Wild horses and mustangs are branded culturally in American myth, reality and hearts. Thursday, this “impressive” band made it into the lexicon of legend alongside Ficka, Whiskey and Misty of Chincoteague, earning the nickname “The Defiant Five” from wild horse advocate Lynn Hanson.

“The Defiant 5, were chased up and down rocky hills and terrain for about an hour,” Hanson wrote in a report for the American Wild Horse Campaign. “[E]very time they got near the trap site the horses brilliantly split up and ran in different directions.”

For whom do you root?

Brad Purdy, a BLM spokesman from Cheyenne, organizes the public viewing of the roundups — they’ll be ongoing for weeks, potentially months — meeting civilians, activists, reporters and photographers in Rock Springs before dawn. He walks a tightrope between the “me-Brad and the BLM-Brad,” building relationships with his guests and explaining agency policy and roundup tactics.

“I’m not rooting for one side or the other,” he says with a caveat: He wants the BLM job done efficiently.

A volunteer works a wild horse adoption in Rock Springs. (BLM)

That job is being done under intense national public scrutiny. Hanson has a popular Instagram account featuring her artful photographs of wild horses. The American Wild Horse Campaign, with whom she collaborates, claims almost 20,000 signatures on a petition opposing the Wyoming BLM gather.

That group condemned the roundup it said would “decimate” half of Wyoming’s wild horses through a “brutal … inhumane” helicopter roundup. The group calls the gather “an extreme action” that employs high-voltage cattle prods and “leaves orphaned foals on the range.”

Purdy rejects the cruelty charges. “I find it rather offensive when they accuse me or my co-workers as being some sort of monster that doesn’t care about these animals,” he says. “Every BLM employee I have ever met … we care about these animals, we care about these horses.”

He pointed to a mare rounded up last week and found with an injury that appeared to have been inflicted by a bite or kick — not “gather-related.” BLM kept the mare and its foal together and took them specially to a Rock Springs corral where a veterinarian could treat her.

“To me that is a perfect example of how BLM employees feel and the kind of work that they do,” he said.

A 20-page list of “welfare assessment standards” guides how wild horses are rounded up and handled. The helicopter pilot “should not repeatedly evoke erratic behavior … causing injury or exhaustion,” it states.

Standards call for efforts to keep mares and foals together and set the pace, distance and time of a drive by the abilities of the weakest horse in the band.

Electric prods are allowed, but only “after three attempts using other handling aids (flag, shaker paddle, voice or body position),” guidelines state. Handlers can’t carry prods constantly and aren’t supposed to conceal them or shock an animal that doesn’t have space in front of it to move to, the standards say.

The BLM moves the trapped horses first to a temporary holding pen — last week near Interstate 80 — where they are freeze-branded on their necks, watered, fed and monitored. They are moved later to more permanent corrals.

“All I kept thinking was not more than an hour ago these horses were enjoying their lives in the most beautiful landscape you have ever seen,” Hanson wrote. “And just like that, their lives changed drastically,” with the horses “crying out to each other amidst the roaring engine noise of the freeway.”

Ultimately the government will put them up for adoption, stipulating they can’t immediately be resold.

A Rock Springs menagerie?

For Tim Savage, a Rock Springs City Council member, the roundup “isn’t just moving a number from one side of a ledger to another.”

“My biggest concern,” he said, “is for the horses. They aren’t doing anything wrong.”

As his energy-industry-dependent city struggles to diversify its economy, he’s upset that the BLM’s long-range plan, still being finalized, would remove thousands of horses permanently. “It would be detrimental for the long-term health of the herds because of the birth control that they’re going to use,” he said.

The BLM’s long-range plan proposes having few wild horses on checkerboard lands in these management areas in southwest Wyoming. (BLM)

He’s also worried BLM action could diminish the attractiveness of the Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop near town, a growing visitor attraction. Sweetwater County commissioners endorsed a plan for a sterile herd there, a proposition Savage finds “very artificial.

“It’s not going to be a real wild horse herd if they bring up an old mare once a while,” he said. Wild horse aficionados, “they won’t be fooled” by a menagerie, he said. “They’ll go somewhere else.”

Wild horse advocates direct some of their ire over the roundup and long-range-reduction plans on those who graze stock on the public lands, including the Rock Springs Grazing Association. That enterprise covers nearly 1 million acres of deeded and leased lands in the checkerboard land-ownership pattern of southwestern Wyoming.

But the BLM settled on its wild horse limits through public planning processes and should stick to its conclusions, said Don Schramm, land operations manager for the association.

“They have management plans with defined numbers,” he told WyoFile. “They should do their job and get it back to the numbers [for which] they plan to manage horses.”

“It’s not going to be a real wild horse herd if they bring up an old mare once in a while.”

Tim Savage, Rock Springs City Council member.

The acting state director for the BLM in Wyoming told a legislative committee earlier this year that the agency had double its proscribed number of horses on the range — about 7,700, Kim Liebhauser told the lawmakers.

As it completes the ongoing roundup, the BLM is finalizing its long-range plan that calls for removing most of the wild horses from the checkerboard lands near Green River, Rock Springs and Rawlins. The mile-square alternating sections of public and private lands stretch 20 miles north and south of the Union Pacific railroad line.

An environmental study proposes reductions across 2.8 million acres, 1.9 million acres of which are federal. About 814,086 acres are private property.

Gov. Mark Gordon asked the BLM to remove most checkerboard lands from its horse management areas where wild horses are generally allowed to roam.

To truly meet federal laws, BLM’s horse management “must also conform to the rights of private landowners,” he wrote the BLM last year. The government should then reallocate the forage assigned to wild horses, Gordon wrote, suggesting it be designated for ranchers’ stock.

Another group supporting ranchers was more critical of the long-range plan, saying the BLM has “cast the Rock Springs Grazing Association as the arch enemy to wild horses.

“It appears as though the [BLM’s Rock Springs Field Office] has opted to incite opposition, mischaracterize historical facts and sabotage the [Resource Management Plan] revision,” a coalition of county commissioners and conservation districts in Lincoln, Sweetwater and Uinta counties, along with the Little Snake and Sublette conservation districts, wrote the BLM.

Wild no more

The BLM’s 2021 roundup will permanently remove about 3,500 wild horses, setting them up for adoption. About 800 rounded up animals will be returned to the range after mares are treated with temporary fertility control.

The roundup covers the Great Divide Basin, Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek, White Mountain and Little Colorado herd management areas. The goal is “managing and protecting healthy wild horses on healthy public rangelands in balance with available water, forage, and other authorized uses of the land,” the BLM states.

Some days the roundup gathers only a handful of horses. Some days wranglers gather many, some days none. The operation will continue for weeks, perhaps months and may extend into next year. BLM will not gather during foaling periods, Purdy says.

Daily roundups are “going to be all over the map” in terms of numbers, Purdy says, and geography.

Specialists know where the horses are and where they might go across the rolling sagebrush landscape, Purdy says. All that leads to where they set a trap on any given day.

They are, after all, wild horses.

“The horses go,” Purdy says, “where the horses go.”

Angus M. Thuermer Jr.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at angus@wyofile.com or (307)...

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  1. have seen wild horses in red desert. great sight-dislike seeing the possible end for a part of wyoming history. Jerry Hetrick

  2. Horses are interesting and attractive creatures. Are they the pre-eminent symbol of the freedom of the American West? Apparently, a fair number of folks have decided that they are. For others, it’s John Wayne. We can all have our own opinion on the matter. How about, instead, creatures that have been evolving there for millenia: pronghorn, elk, mule deer, ferruginous hawks, jackrabbits?
    There’s considerable irony here. These horses are, for the most part, present because of early ranchers in the area, some of whom were ancestors of today’s ranchers, who the horse fans excoriate. Why were those early ranchers here? To make a living by grazing livestock.

  3. LARGE WYOMING RANCH FOR SALE WHICH COULD BE PARTIALLY CONVERTED TO A WILD HORSE REFUGE : Are you listening Nature Conservancy. As per Pearson Real Estate Co., Inc. :

    ” The Big Sandy Ranch is comprised of 8,573 acres deeded, 20,273 acres State of Wyoming leases, 32,749 USFS permits and 981,931 acres BLM permits for a total of 1,043,526 acres. The ranch currently runs both sheep and cattle plus a small goat herd. The property runs 170 miles from north to south. This is a working ranch with few fences and a belief in the transhumanance ( a practice of preserving the range land pastures and efficient production ) of herding the livestock.

    Cattle are trucked from the from the main ranch in the fall to winter pastures at Vwemillion Creek. Sheep are trailed from their winter pasture on Vermillion Creek to the spring-summer allotments and the USFS lands.

    Owned by the same family for over 100 years.

    Listing price $19,500,000. ”

    A perfect wild horse property that would also be able to support enough cattle to pay some of the bills. This is how its done wild horse advocates, encourage the Nature Conservancy to purchase. Some units of the ranch could be sold off which are not best suited as wild horse range.

    1. P.S. Sublette and Sweetwater Counties , Wyoming. There are 15 wells, of which 12 are artesian , on the ranch.

  4. Let’s remove the wild horses and make way for the rich ranchers livestock…the BLM makes me sick …greedy hypocrites is all they are

  5. The BLM’s grazing program loses $120 million annually. And that doesn’t include the cost of removing the mustangs. Why do they continue programs that cost taxpayers? Ranchers and agra businesses have strong lobbyists in DC.

  6. HOW TO DO IT RIGHT!!!! THE NATURE CONSERVANCIES ZAPATA RANCH IN COLORADO: 103,000 acres with 2,000 buffalo grazing on it. Conservation organizations have the ability to acquire and manage a large ranch in Wyoming for wild horses – get into the ranching business yourself wild horse advocates and manage the ranch anyway you desire. The Nature Conservancy also owns and manages the Red Canyon Ranch south of Lander. Too many of you are spending way too much time criticizing the BLM and the ranching community – the secret to the whole wild horse matter is to own the land. There is a way to do this using constructive, cooperative approaches and the Zapata Ranch, the Red Canyon Ranch, the Heart Mountain Ranch, Ted Turner’s ranchs, and several thousand other properties that are privately owned are making major progress without conflict. Try a different approach other than criticizing our western ranchers – they are the true stewards of the land and prevent subdividing – the real threat to wildlife habitat.

  7. I think a beef boycott is a really good thing to do, but one of the larger horse advocate organizations would have to start it. Not all causes lend themselves well to a boycott, but this one is perfect for it. It would affect grocers, butchers, restaurants in addition to the ranchers. I’m surprised that no one has called for that already. I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere by writing to Congress. They can’t even get the SAFE act passed and that wouldn’t even solve the whole issue anyway.

    I do think Biden is very much up to his neck in this. He authorized an extra $35 million to the BLM to increase the gathers. I think it has something to do with promises he made to small farmers about the big 4 corps that control the meat industry.

  8. Stop ranchers and those who support them from having a reason to move livestock to grazing property where wild horses should be. Stop eating hamburgers and steaks, buying leather jackets, shoes and furniture. You would not only be helping the Mustangs but the steers too. Have you ever been in a slaughter house?

  9. Ok… To advocates of those beautiful wild horses that are being abused by people who want to make money by putting ranchers concerns first. How many of you really love our American Mustangs enough to stop eating hamburgers and steaks, dress yourselves with leather shoes, jackets and furniture, etc. As long as you put money in ranchers pockets by buying their goods, there will be many more horses taken off the land. You will also encourage cruelty that cattle see. Have you ever seen a steer slaughtered?

    1. Helga: Please try a different approach based on working together without conflict. I posted a wonderful article about the Nature conservancy’s Zapata Ranch that is flat getting the job done without conflict. Put this emotional stuff aside and join a conservation organization that has the ability to purchase a large Wyoming ranch in HMA country and get into the wild horse management business yourself. Please note that you would be able to stay at the ranch and ride with the horses on the open ranch. This emotional approach just won’t work and it actually makes the matter worse – get pro-active and buy a ranch using pooled resources. Lee

  10. “Put on a show” ?? Really??

    They are fighting for their lives.
    Stop. The. Roundups.
    End public grazing.
    Retire grazing permits.
    Federally protected!

    BLM Wild Horse “holding pens” have no shelter from snow, wind or sun.

  11. “Put on a show” ?

    BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program is corrupt and needs a complete overhaul.

    Stop the roundups

  12. This is a terrible idea to remove these great horses from many years of our great western history!! they were here before we settled in America. they were horses brought by the Spanish and were apart of our great western native American tribes. beef is so expensive now and man people are turning to other forms of protein. Big cattle ranchers should feed their cattle on land that they own. they dont need all the leased govt. land as well!!,! let the last wild horses alone. next it will be the deer they take away in helicopter roundups to satify the big rancher who lets his cattle run wild for the sake of money!!

  13. They should prohibit kill buyers from shipping these horses to Mexico and Canada for slaughter. Many of them end up at feedlot auctions and then ship to slaughter. Anyone who has ever seen the videos from those slaughter houses and doesn’t oppose the practice should be locked up

  14. They need to let the ones on private land stay there. All they do is ship them to Mexico or Canada for slaughter. That not right. If they would adopt them out for the same price as slaughtering does, more would be able to adopt. Lot of people don’t have 1000’s dollars to spend. Like me I have land and could hold 6 horses but I can’t pay what they would want.

  15. Stop the roundups now !!!! The comment made by the BLM employee where they took the mare to a veterinarian is a very rare situation they actually returned her baby and then took them to a veterinarian hardly ever happens. And every other round up that has happened, in the last year, any horses showing a sign of injury gets euthanized. And even though the injury has happened because of the Roundup and we know this because we have pictures of these horses every one of these wild horse herds there are pictures of them the Roundup, they are healthy they’re getting plenty of food and water, no injuries. So there’s no reason for emergency roundups it’s the b l m catering to the welfare cattle ranchers and other special interest demands. The BLM has stated so many different reasons and each and every one is shown to be irrelevant by facts and science. For instance the BLM States at their concern about the condition of the rangeland and being overgrazed. Okay then REMOVE the 30 or 40 million cattle and sheep you have out there IMMEDIATELY!!!!. Stop blaming it on the horses when there’s only a few thousand horses. Besides the fact that horses eat and then move. When a horse grazes they clip the grass and move along cattle stay in one place and graze until there’s nothing left. So all the lies are nothing but a Smokescreen so that these people can take these horses put them in a holding area and siphon them off to slaughter because information is out there what a big business slaughtering horses is and the blm’s got their hand in that cookie jar along with the cattle ranchers. All the money that they make from the taxpayers is wasted. I’m tired of these people telling me what they’re going to do with my money when I and millions of other taxpayers want our horses left alone. All the money that they waste rounding up these horses could be better spent at managing these horses out on the Range like they should be. I want cattle grazing and other special interests such as Mining and oil drilling to be subjected to the voter approval. I want cattle grazing stopped immediately and all of the cattle removed until an environmental study can be done. It’s my money and millions of other taxpayers and I should have something to say about it I’ve had enough of these people driving big fancy expensive cars living in big fancy houses at my expense and I have nothing to say about it. Enough is enough. And we are not going to stop until these people stop rounding up our horses. If you don’t believe it how brutal these round up our then Google on YouTube the BLM Wild Horse Roundup and then see how brutal they are. These animals deserve to live free like it is stated in the law (1971 wild horse and burro act)the BLM is breaking the law for their special interest groups to line their pockets with money. This is costing these animals their freedom and their lives it’s time it stops now!!!!!

    1. I am in total agreence with Christina Paxton. The BLM’s total intentional mis.management , their overreach of authority and abuse of power has got to stop now. They are fast tracking our mustangs into Extinction!!! They lie about everything from overpopulation to degradation of the land…they do not follow the science and real life data cows and sheep are the culprits…our mustangs are native species and our NOT feral…the BLM just murdered 50 mustangs they deemed not worthy…it is pure evil !! The blm and cattoors are shipping to slaughter indercover…..the American people are sick and tired of them not listening…these are our horses not theirs …its pure evil when the once who are supposed to protect are the very ones who are committing genocide on these majestic animals….Stop the roundups Now before they are gone forever. …and Stop Sterilizing our mustangs with pzp and gona con. These are far from safe and permenently sterilize our mustangs..Blm=Bureau of lies and murder.

      1. Tracy: The emotional approach isn’t working. Go pro-active and buy a large Wyoming ranch by joining the Nature conservancy – there is a 1,000,000 acre ranch for sale right now. When you own the land and grazing permits you can change the grazing plan to favor the wild horses. Please Google the Nature Conservancy’s Zapata ranch covering 103,000 acres with 2,000 buffalo. Conflict and criticism is highly ineffective. Owning the land is 100% effective. Please try a different approach. Lee

  16. one would have to say even after all these years the BLM is doing the bidding for the big cattle ranches whose cattle is in competition for the grass lands…and that’s the bottom line……these horses like the Native Americans who once roamed this land as well as the Buffalo are being chased off their land in favor of the white man and of course the politicians are in on it…..and must remember many of these horses are not adopted and they end up at kill pens and made into dog food……….

  17. This is completely outrageous the BLM defies his duty to protect the Wild Horses, entrusted upon their care in the 1971 Free Roaming Wild Horse Protection law. They are serving the “Welfare Rancher’s” interests who caveat the cheap grazing on public lands to fatten their private livestock. We the People are fed up with this corrupt agenda! We are talking about a few thousand head of horses on 2.9million acres, as opposed to tens and thousands of private livestock responsible for destroying the range? Also it is a blatant lie that the BLM is leaving “healthy herd” out there. The herds are gutted, their social structure completely destroyed, by skewed sex ratios, birth control sterilized mares. It is despicable and un-American to manage the American People’s Symbol of Freedom, for extinction!

    1. Anne-Marie: I highly recommend you join the Nature Conservancy and advocate within the organization for the purchase of a large Wyoming ranch dedicated to wild horses. Please read my comments about the Zapata ranch in Colorado which covers 103,000 acres and runs 2,000 buffalo. Acquisition of a large ranch for wild horses is a permanent move which should provide habitat and protection for centuries. If you don’t like the way the BLM is doing it – pool your money by joining an organization. The down side of this is that makes you wild horse advocates ranchers and you’re responsible for providing water, fences, over grazing, feeding in the winter, vet care, and roundups. I can guarantee you the criticism of ranchers will come to a complete stop when you walk a mile in their boots. Lee

  18. I grew up on farms and ranches half my life and have always been around horses and other farm animals. The BlM is not truthful about the horses and it is all about money. There is plenty of land and resources for the horses and other animals to keep them sustained and not damage the environment. I am a respectful Native American woman who has a deep love for the horses as well as all the great animals on this earth, but the reasons given by the BlM, is not truthful or right. The herds of horses and burros are not a problem, they , many times help with the environment and areas that they graze. The pure greed and power of the all mighty dollar controls the people in charge of some of the most beautiful and gentle creatures the creator has ever created on this earth. I call on anyone to listen and watch this deceitful excuse by those in charge of these innocent animals and keep their feet to the fire. The horses and burros need us.

  19. The BLM needs to mange the wild Mustangs like a breeder would do. Castrate the stud colts by 6 to 7 months of age or younger. Not a new science; it has been done for years. Select certain colts to leave intact for breeding. As the older stallions age out tge young ones will take their place. Horses are herd animals; they can be taught to follow a person on horse back. Take the time while in captivity to put mounted riders in with them. Sort time of this and they can be lead where you want them to go. I am sure there would be no problem getting riders! These horses are valuable to this Country for many reasons!! Some have sold for up to $13,000 at auction after the Mustang Foundation Shows.

    1. Wrong! You must be one of the Welfare Ranchers who shamelessly exploiting the public range for their private gain! The Wild horses self managed for centuries by nature’s survival of the fittest, no human can duplicate that. The crime here is GREED!

    2. Donna: FINALLY,FINALLY, FINALLY it comes out that horses can be trained to follow a man on a horse; and, they can be acclimated to accept the presence of a man on horse in the gathering pens – there seems to be a problem training them to follow a helicopter though, da. Could we go back to the cowboy/horseman/horsewoman way of doing things – calmly, very, very calmly – quietly, nice and quiet on thar on the open range. Reduces injuries by – let me guess – 85%.

  20. Leave them alone, stop leasing the land to cattle operations for cents on the dollar. The horses have more right to be there than politicians. Money under ther table from cattle raisers to politicians is what keeps these roundups going. You are killing horses using helicopters. Broken legs are a death sentence to a horse. Leave them alone

  21. The land was NOT designated for ranchers to feed their cattle on. They should not be using our public land for their profit. Wild horses are part of our heritage in this nation where freedom used to stand tall! What are we becoming?!!

    1. Marilyn: I highly recommend you join the Nature Conservancy and advocate for the organization to purchase a large Wyoming ranch in HMA country that would be dedicated to wild horses. Go pro-active and try a non-conflict approach. Buy the land and you buy the decision making ability. This is how its done most effectively.

  22. I really appreciate any awareness towards wild horses, yet I would even prefer it more to have some awareness on the LIVESTOCK GRAZING PERMITS that are suffocating wildlife (including wild Horses). If during all of this the numbers of cattle and sheep and the amount of extraction and exploitive industries would be recognized we would not have to worry about the minute impact of wild horses. YET that seems to be a one-liner like: THE ROCK SPRINGS GRAZING ASSOCIATION receives some of the ire of the advocates and environmental groups. THAT IS WHERE WE NEED TO LOOK. No range health studies have been done.

  23. Save the planet and it’s horses by not eating as much beef. Use beef as a tasty delicate garnish only. Convert profitable cattle operations to profitable energy operations leveraging wind and solar.

  24. thank you for the attempt of a somewhat bilateral multilateral account. These horses are not treated per the CAWP (suggestions), they are brutalized and many are just left abandoned injured on the path to the trap by the stunt helicopter pilot who works either on a day-pay or pay-per-head: Either way he is taking no prisoners. And if the horses come in injured they are shot on the spot. Also the distance is not a couple of miles it is over 10 miles often across difficult and rocky terrain.

  25. the vom is made up of a bunch of cattle ranchers and oil and mineral man who want the land for themselves it is not the horses that overgraze the land it’s the cattle it’s time to let them be free they maintain their own population according to the food they have available they are innocent and belong on the land

  26. As an American Citizen I am very concerned about The Salt Wells Curly Mustangs and the Wild Horses and Burros as a Species that needs to be protected on the HMA’s where they were born and existed for multiple generations. Centuries old bloodlines, unique and rare genetics and herd traits are being obliterated from the Range. The Path Forward is a Control Plan to benefit Domestic Livestock Ranchers and eliminate Wild Horses & Burros from all BLM Managed Lands. ** The HMA’s were set aside for the Welfare and Protection of the Wild Horses & Burros. (Domestic Livestock need to be removed from the HMA’s First as the Mustangs & Burros own the right of Domaine over Domestic Livestock and that is an Established Fact.) The BLM Mismanagement and Ware Housing of Mustangs and Burros needs to be stopped! ***Justice Thurgood Marshall Supreme Court 1976. Stated the Importance of the Governments Interest in preserving Wild Horse & Burro Herds in their Natural Habitat. Further Ruled Wild Horses and Burros were entitled to remain on the land they were born on. KLEPPE VRS New Mexico. Ruling by Court that a Herd of Wild Burros be returned to their HMA! It has long been established that the Wild Horses and Burros own the RIGHT to be Protected on the HMA’s which is the only land BLM will let them have. It is Wrong Doing for BLM to remove up to 80% of these herds from their HMA’s. It is Wrong Doing to Zero out HMA’s and give the forage and water resources to Domestic Livestock and or Mining Interests. Something is very wrong in America when Wild Horses & Burros and Government Protected Land are Exploited for Self Serving Factions. STOP the Helicopters, Develop an on Range Management Plan that Actually Manages and promotes Healthy Wild Horse & Burro Herds and Protects and Provides for the Welfare of the Wild Horses & Wild Burros. Insist BLM Use scientific research to set Herd Numbers. Insist BLM include Domestic Livestock in reductions to HML’s to maintain a healthy, thriving, ecological balance on BLM managed land. Restore Present AML’s to Pervious AML numbers for Wild Horses & Burros. BLM cut previous AML’s allowed to Wild Horses & Burros by nearly 50% in 1991. A 6 month Moritoriun needs to be called to Stop all BLM Round Ups of Wild Horses & Wild Burros and to Study in depth the mismanagement practices, errors and lack of appropiate tracking of the 50,000 Wild Horses and Burros currently in the care and under management of the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Division.

    1. Anne: One of the big problems with public land management is the concept of multiple use. It implies that many uses can occur on the public lands concurrently. Thus horses must share the public lands with other game animals, cattle, sheep, mining, oil and gas, tourism/recreation, off road four wheeling, mountain bikes, climbers, etc.
      The opposite of multi use is ZONING. The concept of zoning is that land is designated for certain preferred uses such as residential, commercial, industrial, wetlands, wildlife habitat, open space, flood zones, etc. I have noticed that the Federal agencies in their management plans have been increasing adopting land management concepts more closely resembling zoning. I watched the revision of the Big Horn National Forest Plan and it identified some preferred uses; however, there was something in it for everyone. The wilderness advocates got some of their desires, the hunters got some of theirs, the forest industry got some of their recommendations, wildlife got secure habitat protected from hoards of ATVs, etc. The forest was fundamentally zoned ; that is, ATVs and logging were not allowed in secure wildlife habitat and so on. This was much easier since there is almost no mining or oil/gas extraction in the Big Horns.
      This concept is largely missing from management of the large tracts of public lands in Wyoming. However, I did notice things like a tract of federal land in the Gas Hills area was changed to managing for fragile soils – implying that mining, oil and gas and some grazing would be curtailed there. However, the other uses were granted additional usages in other areas – a trade out that was negotiated.
      Should this concept be applied to HMAs – designating them as a preferred use – it would require some trade outs and serious negotiating. To a certain extent, Wyoming is moving slowly in this direction but there is so much pressure to generate income for the State of Wyoming and the counties, that oil and gas, mining, ranching does get prioritized because they generate almost all of the tax income in Wyoming. Our economy is largely a natural resource based economy. One of the biggest problems with our HMAs is that they fall right in the middle of major mining, oil/gas, railroad, interstate highways interests. Large tracts of Federal land without these competing economic activities would be much easier to “zone” exclusively for wild horse HMAs. The Pryor Mountain herd area is fortunate in not having to compete with major economic activity. Maybe we need to better identify where in the west there is the least economic activity on Federal land and relocate some of the HMAs to Federal land that doesn’t have so many multiple uses. Multiple use, especially significant economic uses, does not benefit the horses.

      1. Well explained. The correct action would be then to relocate the entire herds to a different area exclusively zoned for Wild Horses. It would be a lot more cost effective and humane!

        1. Anne-Marie: I use the term “zoning” since I was a County Planner for 7 years. The Federal agencies use their own terminology and some of it is quite innovative. The BLMs Natrona district plan identified some tracts of land ” largely undisturbed by the presence of man.” Not wilderness, not wilderness study areas but land which would be managed in order to prevent disturbance – in Wyoming, grazing of course would be allowed. One tract was on the southern flank of the Big Horns and the other east of the interstate between Casper and Buffalo. No telling what the BLM might call an area preferred for wild horses. Horse heaven maybe. By the way, the Antiquity Act of 1906 grants Presidents the power to create National Monuments and other specially designated areas. Doing so, can really ruffle the feathers of the locals though – I think it was Clinton who first tried to designate the Bear Ears in southern Utah without the concurrence of the Utah citizens – and the fight was on. These things need to be done very carefully, negotiating and compensating landowners or grazing permit holders who are displaced. Or at least offering them another grazing permit in place of. People like the Nature Conservancy have the people skills and resources to make these things happen cooperatively. There is a major on going effort in central Montana – south of the Missouri – which is slowly working through the land consolidation process in order to create a large buffalo reserve. The local ranchers absolutely must be worked with and made whole. One way of doing this, and this really works, is to locate an incredible ranch with water, hay, bottom land, buildings – everything – and offer to trade the landowner the type of ranch every rancher has dreamed of – they really like the water in a offer.

        2. Anne-Marie: Another way to get the job done. The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming has purchased and owns/operates 2 ranches I know of, the Red Canyon Ranch south of Lander and the Heart Mountain Ranch just outside of Cody. I wonder if they would be interested in acquiring a large Wyoming ranch in the HMA areas that has hundreds of thousands of acres of Federal grazing permits along with some private land. I bring this up since a saw a listing for a million acre ranch in that area about a month ago. If a conservation organization bought the ranch, they could change the grazing plan such that about 45% of the forage was for wild horses, 35% for cattle and 20% for wild game. It would take some very skilled ranch managers to operate a unit like this but the Nature Conservancy already has hands on experience. Can’t be done?? Consider what Ted Turner has accomplished with his million acres of land emphasizing buffalo. If you can’t beat them – join them. The bottom line is that serious money can get the results wild horse advocates desire but you need purchasing power provided by tens of thousands of paying members. Paying members of course, could always come out and stay in the guest houses or bunk houses – and ride with the wild horses. Wowser.

          1. Anna – Marie: Do you know anybody that wouldn’t like to take a 10 day vacation in Wyoming, stay on a secluded ranch and spend their days riding with the wild horses. The reservation list would probably be about 3, 482, 677 wild horse fans!!!

      2. This is an excellent idea and one that my husband and I were just talking about today. The wild horses need land designated specifically for them not in competition with other land uses. How does one help to make this happen?

        1. Karin: Believe it or not – the easiest way is to purchase a large ranch and manage it anyway you want – pool your resources with other advocates for financial strength and political strength. Another way, is purchase conservation easements on existing ranches which prohibit subdividing and curtailing some grazing – taking land out of production. Zoning is impossible in Wyoming since it applies to State and Federal lands. Some possibility of convincing the BLM to include a ” horse only alternative ” in their Resource Management Plans; however, doing so would have negative impacts on the ranching industry so this alternative would have to offer major concessions to the ranching industry in other areas and any rancher whose grazing permits would affected would need to have them replaced with other grazing permits – you can’t just a rancher out of business. A political approach would be for the President to declare a National Monument using the Antiquities Act of 1906 – the problem with this approach is that it is favored by east and west coast advocates and the local people go nuts when east/west interests try to dictate how to manage federal land out here. By far the easiest way is to do a Ted Turner style land acquisition and manage it for horses. This way, the rancher who sells the land is fully compensated financially so no one is hurt. There is a lot of incentive to do this because ranch prices are sky high and the seller could walk away with $10 to 100 million in today’s market – might even be able to afford a condo in Costa Rica and live on the beach.

  27. Wild horses have been a big draw for the western states for many years. We vacationed in the west for many years always searching for a band of wild horses. I am against Public land being used by ranchers for their livestock. You want to ranch, buy your own land and use it but Public land is just that – it belongs to every taxpayer to enjoy and for wildlife. Private enterprise, humans etc are driving wildlife from this country. Personally, I prefer the company of most wildlife to many humans.

    1. Mary: One small correction – should read ” I prefer the company of most wildlife AND DOGS to most humans.”

  28. I’m disgusted that the BIDEN ADMINISTRATION is not stopping this slaughter.
    Cut back on the cattle, no one can afford to buy it anyways.
    These equines should not be killed over the cattle association or sheep people.
    We need a separate management of our wild equines so they are truly being properly cared for.
    The BLM is on the take of the cattle and sheep ranchers.
    There beefs to be wells dug here and there for all the animals to have water all the wild life on the other side of the fence.
    We the American people own the public land and our voices are being heard.
    I demand you stop killing our equines cut bsck on the cattle and the mining and leave our horses alone.

    1. This plan was devised under the previous, ”
      TRUMP ADMINISTRATION”. It is rather unfortunate that President Biden inherited a complete mess to clean up; pandemic, the hasty unplanned end of a 20 years Republican war, immigration fiasco at the border etc. So I think he just didn’t have time to deal with the Wild Horse issue as well. And the new Interior Deb Halaand, turned out to be a huge disappointment , sadly!

  29. The truest definition of “invasive species” would be that of domestic cattle and ranchers. Both continue to degrade our supposedly “wild” lands in Wyoming.

  30. It is sad that the government saying roundups are necessary to save the wild horses from dying of thirst and starvation,
    Well this will happen especially after the uranium mines and oil companies move in and the waste, pollution and toxic leavings are left. Watching the roundups I didn’t see the horses being week and starving.
    Then the government trying not to look like the evil entity it is, stated that they will release a limited number of horses, well 25 stallions and 25 sterilized mares, which could be permanent depending on which drug is used. So in actuality they released nomad horses back on the range. No family bands, no mares leading the herds to the water and best grasses, not a stallion protecting his herd. The stallions are left to wander, they will show no interest in mares that don’t cycle and can’t reproduce. Constantly calling out for their family. Mares with no babies and a stallion to protect. This reminds me of people being gathered up, identified, separated from their families and confined with a death sentence hanging over their head.

  31. Life on this planet is not perfect. The roundups are necessary to keep the herds healthy, not over grazing and starving from over population. A pack of wolves would help the situation by taking foals, lame and old. And adding lions to the area also would take down the numbers. I vote for the roundups.

    1. Many family members have made trips to your beautiful state to view the wild horses and the other wildlife in the area. We come every year for the Cody saddle horse sale, and we are buyers! The Bureau of Land Management and big agribusiness are duping the public, the land is wanted for cattle and sheep grazing, that is the bottom line no matter what spin you (reporters) put on it.

      1. Your comment shows you as a person against the roundup for the very reason you say it should not be done. Pure economics, but you don’t factor in the damage these horses do to the range to the detriment of wildlife that is truly indigenous to the area.

  32. Too much cattle grazing on public lands. Cattle shoukd be raised east of Colorado in the ‘ green areas’ . Horses should be controlled by fertility injections only.

  33. I am retired. My husband is a travel nurse. We have chosen to full time in an RV to allow us to roam this wonderful land.
    Since my childhood in the U.K. books about the iconic wild horses fired my imagination and it has been on my bucket list to to see them in the wild.
    Four years ago I learned of what the BLM were doing to them. I researched to find the truth and have been horrified by how the BLM is “managing” the wild horses. Years ago the NAS conducted their research and concluded the BLM management strategy was not based on sound scientific practices. This has been born out by numerous research since but BLM pays no attention to it.

    I cannot, in good conscience, support a State as a tourist that continues to defy scientific research in its management of wild horses and other wild animals (such as wolves). It would have nothing to attract me to the areas I once yearned to see. What is beautiful scenery (of which America has much) without the wild animals that should inhabitat it?

  34. So, wild horses on public land are invasive, feral? So says the author, and they damage the range. But,, he fails to say how many private cattle will be in the same range. Aren’t the cattle the invasive animal? Aren’t they privately owned in public land? Aren’t the horses publicly owned? Seems the perspective is all wrong and a new view is needed.

  35. BLM has their own agenda. Nothing on this planet gets changed by humans (the most invasive species, Roger) unless somebody somewhere is making $$. Sad loo
    It’s obvious

  36. It’s interesting how this article attempts to diminish the value of the wild horses by referring to them as “feral”, and described them as losing their freedom “and impact on the range”, then mentioned that public viewing is allowed, and carefully described how the pilot decided to let this one particular band go in an attempt to show how much the pilot supposedly cares about the horses. Then, the article discussed how ONE mare and foal are separated for special treatment because of the mare’s injury as an example of how the BLM employees care so much about the horses. Also, all the comments made by the horse advocate are contained in quotes as though to imply that they are merely her opinion, but the article never mentioned the truth about the fact that the “public viewing” option is a farce because there is a limit to the number of people allowed to view the roundups and many times the view is obscured by the terrain and occasionally the BLM’s own trucks that are placed in a convenient manner as to hide the activities. The article also did not mention the truth about how the majority of the horses have been run by the helicopter for so long that they come in sweaty, that horses are hazed to a point that some get tripped and/or trampled, and that the pilots have on occasion, actually bumped the horses with the helicopter skids. Also, no mention was made of how the pilots have shot down horses FROM THE HELICOPTER because of supposed injuries instead of having them inspected on the ground for a more accurate determination whether the injury is truly fatal. Nor was it mentioned that horses get shot (not euthanized, as they like to claim) for terminal injuries that can be cared for indefinitely, such as club feet or blindness. The article also conveniently left out the part about how only a handful of horses actually get adopted and that the thousands of remaining horses are crammed into feedlots that are only a fraction of the size of their former range where they could stay healthy by exercising freely and graze on forage that is better suited for their diets. Thare are also reports that many of the horses that don’t get adopted end up in slaughterhouses. Another thing that the article did not mention is that the horses actually IMPROVE the range, unlike the cattle that are not restricted from the range, even when the BLM uses drought or other environmental causes as an excuse to remove the wild horses that belong on the range. Don’t be fooled by the way this article glosses over the reality of how the wild horses are really treated and that the cattle ranchers believe that they are entitled to run their cattle on public lands in order to sell about 98% of their beef TO OTHER COUNTRIES.

    1. Your statement ” graze on forage better suited for their diets “. I read a story about some of the first horses brought into Wyoming by mountain trappers in about 1823. One of the famous trappers ( Jim Bridger? ) made the yearly trip to St. Louis to get supplies for that years rendezvous and brought back the first horses for use by the trappers. As he progressed up the Platte River valley, the horses became increasing weak and sick and it looked like none would make it to the Green River rendezvous alive. However, as he climbed the from the plains to the high desert ( Cheyenne to Laramie ) the horses regained their health and were rip snorting when they got to the Green. WHY??? The short grass prairies and high desert forage have extremely high protein content compared to tall green grasses that go right through an animal with little beneficial effect. This means that a wild horse in the high desert can survive on less forage of higher protein content than his cousin in the tall grass country ( like east Texas where they get lots of rain ). So your right in your observation – its just a matter of not over grazing and leaving enough forage for the wild game – deer,, antelope and elk.

  37. I ponder the methods of running the animals with a helicopter over an hour. How about putting out oats and apples for a couple of weeks in particular vent places? Hungry horses make for easy catches….something to do late winter. Certainly would be more humane than chasing them with a helicopter and honestly more logical. How many bags of oats can you buy for that helicopter cost$$$?? We adopted 2 BLM horses when I was younger and lived on a farm. They were exceptional mountain horses. How about you actually use your heads about attracting the horses rather than run them to death. I understand the overpopulation however I’m astonished you would run horses with helicopters. As citizens we would end up in jail if we did that!! Go “Defiant 5” those are the savviest horses on that range!!

    1. Cindy: Two scenarios. 1.) Bringing the horses in with feed and goodies with no motorized roundup educates the horses that not all bad things result from co-existing with people – might be some lovely chompies in this. Certainly calmer horses that are easier to break and train. 2.) Neurotic, terrorized horses that associate danger with motorized vehicles ( particularly helicopters ) and human presence. I would hate to adopt and try to brake a neurotic wild horse – but a calm horse, that’s a different thing.

  38. It’s just my opinion but I think BLM says what they think the public wants to hear. Everything is about money these days. Not one thing on this whole planet happens because it’s “beneficial” to a species. Except a human and his bank account.

    1. You’re right, Denise. The BLM is feeding out the information that they want us to hear. Have you noticed how the people who buy into the overpopulation lie like to use words like “feral”, “emotional bias” and “invasive species” in an attempt to discredit those of us who want the wild horses to be protected? Yet, they never say anything about how the invasive cattle destroy the range. It’s all an attempt to emotionally abuse those of us who see through the lies but we just have to shake it off. If you aren’t already, I encourage you to help us fight for the wild horses to be protected as the law requires because we can make it happen. The majority of the population are against the roundup and we need to make our voices be heard. It will be a long hard fight but don’t give up because we can win this fight together. Thank you for supporting the wild horses.

  39. The BLM’s long-range plan is not what the majority of people want it will remove thousands of horses permanently -It will be detrimental for the long-term health of the herds because of the birth control that they’re going to use! When I’m out enjoying the public lands in WY I enjoy seeing the wild horses not cattle & sheep. The poor wild horses freedom is taken away & the future of the few remaining free is not good. It’s sad tourists come for our Open spaces & wild animals not to see them spending the rest of their lives in pens- they are not all adopted

  40. How many wild horses–an invasive species–do “advocates” want to protect? Do they realize that some horse owners release unwanted animals because they are difficult to get rid of? Seems like unrealistic regulations that are emotionally biased are the strong suit of wild horse lovers.

    1. The horse is not an “invasive” species. The horse has been here for thousands of years. The European immigrants who moved here to settle this country are “invasive” species if you want to look at it that way. It’s just another excuse to get rid of them.

      1. Nina : Horses can be paleontologically traced back to 45-55 million years ago in the Big Horn Basin, to 25-35 million years ago in the White River Badlands around Lusk and Douglas, to 10-15 years ago in the Miocene of Nebraska and the Hay Creek breaks and all the way forward to 12,800 years ago. At that time, there was a mass extinction which caused the demise of the North American horses, mammoths, giant sloths, saber tooth cats, dire wolves, etc. Subsequently, the New World was invaded by an invasive species called Spaniards who reintroduced horses to North America. So, our original horses all went extinct and we now cherish the Spanish bloodlines who arrived prior to the English/French/Dutch bringing over their bloodlines – that were introduced in the northeast as opposed to the Spanish horses who were introduced from Mexico and South America. So our most prized bloodlines in the West favor Spanish origins.

      2. Wrong, Nina. Until Columbus’ second voyage in 1493 horses had been extinct in North America since the Pleistocene

        1. Hal: That’s interesting – I didn’t know Columbus was the Spaniard who brought over the first horses for reintroduction in 1493 – way before the English. I assume it was a bloodline developed for military purposes.

    2. Research makes for good comments. If you cannot be bothered to fully examine the research that abounds, rather than just take something at face value, your comment is simply a personal opinion based on what you have been told. Please go read research that has been properly conducted. Start with the NAS (2013 if my memory serves me right) research and comments and go from there.

    3. Roger: Agree that some horses are abandoned by their owners on the public lands and that some escape from ranches. The only way I know of identifying and culling out these true feral/estray horses is to sort after a roundup and utilize branding as a method of identifying the original herd members who carry a desirable genetic bloodline. Any horse not branded with the US brand, signifying ownership by the American people, would be culled and removed from the herd. This is where good management comes in to play, and in some my of reading, this is apparently going on with some of the wild horse herds. I haven’t heard a good factual explanation of how the Wyoming high desert herds are being managed – I did read one reference to them being freeze branded. Are they being managed for a particular bloodline?? I see the Pryor Mt. herd is being managed for New World Iberian bloodlines – how about the Wyoming horses. Sorting is necessary to remove the feral/estray horses though as is branding – the only good way to identify individual horses accurately.

  41. Hey, that looks familiar!! Brings back the good old days when we used LOH helicoptors in the 11th ACR and 1st Cav to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people. Hang out the co-pilots door with a M-60 and a few grenades and enjoy the scenery. At least that was a fair fight, they could shot back. Not much of a fair fight here – nice to see the horses are getting smarter. I really like this method of winning the hearts and minds of the horses and the American people – just like VN. And as an added bonus, I got 2 purple hearts doing this sierra. Can’t help but think that maybe some apples, alfalfa and love might get better results.

    1. Over time, the horses on the high desert HMAs will become almost neurotic when they hear a helicopter or even plane. I’ve observed various prey species including rabbits, ducks and geese when there are eagles anywheres close and their behavior becomes very elusive and secluding. After one or two roundups, the high desert horse’s behavior will change. Not exactly horse whisperer stuff going on out there. It’s possible that a survival skill based on scattering will develop in the horses – some species congregate for protection when threatened – but this usage of helicopters may be encouraging scattering for survival instinct.

  42. It’s preposterous. The range should be left to the horses and not reserved for free grazing for owned stock. I don’t get to use public land for my purposes and ranchers shouldn’t be allowed to either.

    1. Is the solution to the wild horse issue to let them over populate? They have to be responsibly managed for their benefit and that of the range. Overpopulation leads to starvation and health problems. Is that what people want to happen? Saying the horses belong there when the cattle or sheep don’t is not a valid argument. The horses though in a feral state are considered live stock. They could also be termed an introduced species of wildlife. Ranchers manage their livestock according to their resources of feed, water, money. Wild life is managed by hunting and relocation. Too many deer eating a limited amount of avaiable feed or having limited water sources isn’t good or fair to them. Same goes for the horses. It is not fair to them to let them run unchecked under poor conditions due to poor management. Emotions and misinformation do not lead to responsible management.
      Grazing by ranchers’ livestock is NOT free. They pay for it in grazing fees, development and maintenance of water sources and maintaining of fences. Their livestock numbers on public lands are dictated by the BLM or Forest Service. If they chose to be in violation of the grazing plan they can be fined and lose their grazing permits. Overgrazing of the leased lands their private lands can mean the end to their livelihood. Overgrazing makes no sense.
      The horses can be a part of that range if responsibly and humanely managed. I love and have horses. I would never let my horses go short of feed and water. I only have enough horses for the resources I have. That is responsible management. Why can’t that be applied to the horses?
      In closing, the public lands are just that. Public. They belong to all of us. Not just to the ranchers, not just to the recreationists or people who will never set foot on them.. They can be used by all of us. It is up to us to use them wisely and manage them wisely.

  43. Wild horses have been blamed forever for using up more than their share of public land resources. Overpopulation of humans are the real problem on this planet, not horses. A few thousand horses on 245 million acres of public lands are not too many compared to millions of livestock, animals protected for hunters, energy installations, human settlements, etc.
    We have only 300 acres in upstate NY with limited numbers of grass fed cattle and horses that are not always so easily controlled yet I can’t imagine them being treated so inhumanely as the BLM treats our wild horses.

    1. “Defiant Five”

      LOL. Good for them.

      Since Jackson calls itself “the last of the Old West” let’s just ship them there. Let ’em roam around the estates and the ecosystem of excess.

      The “wild” horses do need to be managed so that the range can support them and sustain itself for the future. And sharing the habitat for other uses and users doesn’t seem unreasonable. Where to draw the line is beyond my pay grade but my sympathy doesn’t fall toward ranchers getting a handout for cattle grazing at public expense, usually. Sometimes it does.

    2. I agree with you Peggy. There are millions and millions of cows on public lands compared to what? 27,000 horses or whatever the BLM wants to cut them down to? If the powers that be want to eradicate horses, then they want to use the land for something else, otherwise they would just let the horses stay there. The crazy idea that they’re doing these roundups for the overall good lacks simple common sense. If you go to the BLM site and download their press release for Sept 24th, on the back you will see maps and a chart. From the chart you can see the actual numbers of both cattle and wild horses and the difference is vast. If you look at the map, you can see the the degradation of the land is being caused primarily by cattle, not horses. I hope all of you are writing or screaming to people in high places that this is not acceptable.