BLM seeks input on horse plan
March 11, 2020
PINEDALE - The High Desert District's wild horse draft environmental impact statement and proposed Bureau of Land Management revisions for its management are open for public comment through April 30. The BLM's "preferred alternative" would remove about 74 percent or 1,529 of the wild horses from four herd management areas or HMAs, where populations are well above its current appropriate management levels or AMLs. HMA acreage where BLM actively manages wild horses would be reduced by about 87 percent to "herd areas." The BLM denes herd areas as public lands where horses were found in 1971 when the Wild Horse & Burro Act was passed but are not actively managed "for a variety of reasons, including conicts with private land, land transferred from BLM's jurisdiction and lands where there were substantial con- icts with other resources values."
Portions of HMAs outside the Checkerboard area, combined with the Little Colorado HMA, would continue under BLM management but with an AML of 259 to 536 wild horses. The BLM's wild-horse resource management plan for "the Checkerboard" – alternating 640-acre parcels of private and public lands in southwestern Wyoming – was the subject of a lengthy lawsuit led in 2011 by the Rock Springs Grazing Association. The judge ruled in a 2013 "Consent Decree" that BLM's Rock Springs and Rawlins eld ofces needed to amend their wild horse RMPs to remove stray horses from the grazing association's private property.
The draft documents affect wild horses in the Great Divide Basin, White Mountain, Salt Wells Creek and Adobe Town HMAs. The Little Colorado HMA is not in this planning area. Public affairs specialist Nikki Maxwell noted that many people outside of the Checkerboard are interested in these wild horses and invites them to attend the Rawlins meeting or visit http://go.usa. gov/xdDV3 to read the draft documents and submit comments through the 90-day comment period that ends on April 30.
The High Desert District's goals are to follow the Consent Decree to keep wild horses off private lands in a 2.8-million-acre portion of the Checkerboard area. The BLM's proposed RMP amendment process for the Rock Springs Field Ofce began in 2011 with public scoping to identify issues about its wild horse management. In 2013, the scoping period was extended for Rock Springs and to the Rawlins Field Office, bringing more than 15,000 comments, many about wild horse reductions, overpopulation, conflicts with other users, wild horse "gathers" and keeping them off private land.
The draft EIS for the proposed RMP amendments states: "The issues to be resolved include the following:
How will the BLM manage wild horses and meet its obligations under the 2013 Consent Decree?
How will the BLM maintain Appropriate Management Levels in each Herd Management Area?
How will the BLM provide for wild horse viewing opportunities for the public?"