It is disappointing that Governor Mead and State of Wyoming are misleading the public about the facts surrounding the BLM’s plans to round up over 800 wild horses from three federally-
designated wild horse herd management areas, and our lawsuit that aims to stop this action. We are further troubled that the Governor is taking a stand in support of the BLM’s flagrant violations of federal law and its own land use plans. In his statement, Governor Mead makes numerous misrepresentations about the situation. The following are the actual facts:
• The BLM intends to remove wild horses from private and public lands in the AdobeTown, Salt Wells and Great Divide Basin HMAs, not just private lands as the Governor asserts.
• The state has no “sovereign right” to manage wild horses, because wild horses were granted federal protection under the federal Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, which was passed unanimously by Congress in 1971.
• The state owns less that 4% of the land in these three HMAs and an even smaller percentage on the checkerboard lands in question.
• There is no overpopulation of horses in this area, and in fact, the proposed roundup will bring the populations below even BLM’s own established levels in violation of the Wild Horse Act and the BLM’s Resource Management Plans for these areas.
In his statement, the Governor makes numerous other erroneous claims regarding wild horse impacts. If the environment and wildlife species are suffering in the area, it is due to the massive number of privately owned livestock grazing on these lands, not to the relatively few wild horses that inhabit the area. In fact the BLM authorizes ten times more livestock than wild horses to graze in this area (maximum of 1,765 wild horses on 2.4 million acres of land vs. the annual equivalent of 17,609 cow/calf pairs in the same land area.)
We urge Governor Mead to remember that America’s public lands belong to all Americans, not just to a small number of ranchers who profit from taxpayer-subsidized public lands grazing. In fact, a strong majority of Americans support protecting and preserving wild horses on our public lands, while less than a third want to ensure that our public lands are available for livestock grazing.
Instead of intervening in support of the BLM’s blatantly illegal actions, the Governor should use the leadership of his office to resolve conflicts between ranchers and wild horses, such as encouraging land swaps in checkerboard areas (alternating parcels of public and private lands) to create contiguous habitat for wild horses and other protected wildlife.