Court Asked to Stop Wyoming Mustang Gather

Court Asked to Stop Wyoming Mustang Gather

A group of wild horse advocates have asked a federal court to prevent the BLM from removing more than 800 horses from their ranges in Wyoming.

Photo: Bureau of Land Management

A group of wild horse advocates have asked a federal court to prevent the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from removing more than 800 horses from their ranges in Wyoming. However, authorities in that state might have something to say about the court action thanks to a long-standing consent decree between the Wyoming state government and the BLM.

In a complaint filed on July 25 in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, the Western Watersheds Project and the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), along with advocates Donna and Greg Duckworth and Carol Walker, have asked the court to prevent the BLM from gathering horses from the White Mountain and Little Colorado Herd Management Areas (HMAs) in Wyoming and returning only geldings to the ranges.

Approximately 1,000 mustangs reside on the two HMAs combined, according to BLM spokeswoman Cindy Wertz. Appropriate Management Levels (AML) for the White Mountain HMA are between 205 and 300 animals, and between 69 and 100 animals for the Little Colorado HMA.

In June the BLM raised the ire of some wild horse advocates after announcing that beginning in August it would gather animals from the two ranges to reach an AML of 205 in the White Mountain HMA and about 69 in the Little Colorado HMA. Following the gather, the organization would release designated numbers of geldings and spayed mares back in the HMAs. Sterile herds would reside on both ranges.

The BLM later revised its plan to exclude the spaying of mares. Wertz said that under the current plan, beginning on Aug. 16, the agency will gather approximately 873 animals from the ranges and return approximately 177 geldings to the ranges.

"Horses not returned to the ranges will be placed in our adoption program," she added.

Suzanne Roy, AWHPC spokeswoman, said the suit seeks to ban the gather on grounds that it violates the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 because the gather will disrupt the nature and vitality of the herds, and because the BLM failed to analyze consequences of the action.

Wertz declined comment on the lawsuit.

However, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead said he is examining the suit to see if it affects a 2003 consent decree between the BLM and the state of Wyoming that establishes herd management areas and appropriate herd numbers for those areas, said Mead's Communication's Director Renny MacKay.

Mead said the agreement is intended to balance public land use in the state and that the current number of wild horses residing on the ranges threaten that balance. Mead said he and Wyoming Attorney General Gregory A. Phillips are reviewing the complaint as well as the BLM's gather plan to determine what action, if any, the state will take: "We have a consent decree with the BLM on wild horse management, and we expect the BLM to abide by that decree. If this suit would impact that effort by the BLM in any way it is a serious concern to me."

No court date for the U.S. District Court case has been set.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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