Citing the threat of imminent starvation, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has announced an emergency removal of all wild horses from northwest Wyoming, according to documents released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Between August 5 and 8, BLM will permanently remove approximately 140 wild horses from the 83,000-acre Fifteenmile Wild Horse Herd Management Area (located between Casper and Cody) because range conditions have deteriorated to the point where the current 210-horse herd can no longer be sustained.
"Responsible range management has been utterly abandoned by BLM in Wyoming," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch whose organization nearly a year ago requested an investigation by the Interior Office of Inspector General into obstruction of BLM-Wyoming's enforcement against overgrazing violations. "Things are pretty pathetic when an 83,000-acre refuge can no longer support 200 head of horses."
A continuing drought is the principal cause of the poor forage but BLM has contributed to the problem by catering to cattle ranchers while ignoring deteriorating range conditions. Keeping the maximum number of cows on the range despite a continuing drought overtaxes the land and can lead to permanent damage Consequently, BLM is making a bad problem much worse by -
- Allowing cattle to graze in the Wild Horse Herd Management Area. BLM has refused to pursue grazing trespass reports;
- Permitting the maximum amount of cattle allowed in surrounding grazing allotments while admitting "there is competition for forage and water between livestock and wild horses"; and
- Refusing to assess the carrying capacity of its rangelands, thus leaving BLM in a passive position where it waits until emergencies to occur before it acts.
This is the same region where a local environmental group, Western Watersheds Project, is suing BLM for mismanagement of its range program. In addition, the investigation by the Office of Inspector General into PEER's complaint of enforcement obstruction ended months ago but the report is still under wraps.
"Parts of the public range in Wyoming resemble the most devastated stretches of the Sahel in Africa," Ruch continued. "As long as ranchers can use political chits to keep the maximum number of cattle on the range even in drought-stricken areas, the downward spiral in Wyoming will continue."