US agency to remove one million acres of wild horse habitat • Earth.com

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The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has just released a plan to eliminate two feral horse management areas and drastically reduce the third. Overall, this would remove approximately one million acres of wild horse habitat.

The agency’s plan focuses on an area near Rock Springs, Wyoming, known as Checkerboard. The feral horse areas that need to be “zeroed” are the Salt Wells Creek and Great Divide Basin management areas.

The BLM will effectively eliminate over 50% of feral horse habitat in Wyoming. The plan was strongly criticized by the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC).

“The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has just approved the largest-ever eradication of federally protected feral horses from public lands in the West. It will destroy what the BLM itself calls “some of the most breathtaking wild horses and habitat in the country,” said AWHC executive director Suzanne Roy.

“This unjustifiable action is driven solely by private ranching interests and contradicts the wishes of 88% of Americans who want wild horses to be protected in the wild where they belong.”

Originally, the BLM planned to manage a neighboring herd in the White Mountain HMA, including the Pilot Butte Scenic Wild Horse Viewing Loop, as a non-producing herd. According to this plan, the animals would be sterilized. However, the agency changed its plan over the objections of residents, including Rock Springs Councilman Tim Savage.

The current plan is the result of a lawsuit filed against the BLM by the Rock Springs Grazing Association (RSGA). The lawsuit demanded the removal of the horses from the Checkerboard area, in favor of private breeding on public land with ridiculously low leases as well as private land. In 2013, the lawsuit was settled by the BLM with a consent decree. Under the decree, it was agreed that the BLM would modify its management plan to remove the horses from the area.

The conclusions of the lawsuits filed by the AWHC concluded that the BLM has no obligation to remove the horses simply because they exceed arbitrary population limits. However, they can remove horses from public lands while removing them from private lands without undergoing review under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The BLM’s plan to remove horses from corrals comes as some of their out-of-reach corrals are already hit by an outbreak of a contagious disease known as strangles.

By Zach Fitzner, Terre.com Personal editor

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