Commissioners support BLM horse roundup

by karla pomeroy

The Big Horn County commissioners last Tuesday approved a letter to BLM Field Manager Michael P. Stewart supporting the BLM’s recent roundup of estray horses in the county.

The letter states, “Based on the background and process as outlined in the attached document (a document established by the BLM office on the roundup), the Big Horn County commissioners support the BLM’s recent decision and action to remove the estray horses from public land located near Greybull. The actions taken were important in protecting public land and the rights and resources of permittee holders in the area, we encourage you to continue to do likewise in the future.”

The Cloud Foundation has been vocal in its protest of the roundup that occurred in March, in which 41 estray horses were rounded up. National news organizations have picked up the story and the public the outcry about the roundup, which were sold by the state of Wyoming to a known slaughterhouse, Cattoor Livestock Roundup Inc.

According to the BLM fact sheet, the state does not round up horses, but, under the state estray laws, after the BLM captures the horses, the state has the responsibility to take possession of them.

One criticism of the BLM has been that there was no public notification. However, BLM fact sheet states that the public was notified that the horses would be removed by the Notice of Intent to Impound, which was published in the Greybull, Lovell, Cody and Powell newspapers. In addition, the commissioners state, all other appropriate contacts were made prior to the gather “including Big Horn County, livestock operators and adjacent landowners.”

In an interview last week, Commissioner Keith Grant said as the liaison for the county with federal agencies, he was notified of the roundup via email from Stewart. He said he did neglect to forward the email on to the other two commissioners — Jerry Ewen and John Hyde.

He said they decided to write the letter in support of the BLM because “We’re very vocal about concerns when we disagree with the BLM and we feel that when we support them we need to be just as vocal.”

He added, “We support them because they are protecting our landowners.”

Grant, and the commissioners’ letter, noted that the estray horses were not federally protected wild horses, such as those in the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Herd. “Those in the Pryor Mountains have the genetics to be something special. My horses (35) are special and I spend a lot of money on them,” he said.

The estray horses, however have been estray on public land for about 40 years and were offspring of abandoned rodeo stock from Andy Gifford.

“In addition, the estray horses had increasingly become a nuisance to land owners, a safety issue and a rangeland health issue,” according to the fact sheet.

Two safety incidents over the past several years were noted — a horse had to be euthanized after being struck by a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train and, as the horses frequent a bentonite haul road, a horse died after being struck by a bentonite company employee as he was traveling to work.

According to the fact sheet the Cody Field Office of the BLM has received several complaints over the years from permittees and adjacent landowners that the “reproducing herd impacted their private, irrigated fields and threatened the safety of their livestock.”

In a personal letter to Stewart, Grant quoted a letter from landowner David Neves regarding the roundup.

Neves stated that the majority of the horses were gathered on an allotment where they are allotted to graze on.

“The West River allotment has a total of 648 AUMs (animal unit month). I think a horse is figured as 1.2 AUMs per month and if that is correct 35 horses for 12 months would be 504 AUMs.  That makes a huge difference in the amount of forage available for grazing for us or whoever is the permittee of the allotment. When the BLM lets these horse numbers increase then the forage availability is greatly lessened for those permittees.

“All of the horses between Greybull and Lovell were feral horses that someone evidently wanted to get rid of and turned out.”

Grant said, “The BLM shouldn’t be getting beat up on for doing their job.” He said he had people calling him saying it was terrible and the county shouldn’t have let it happen. “I thought it should happen.”

He added that he spoke to Wyoming BLM Director Don Simpson and was told that the national budget for the Wild Horse and Burro Act to manage the federally protected wild horses is about $80 million

“Personally I love horses, but is it right that $80 million of your tax money goes to take care of those colts?” Grant said. “Horses are part of our culture of the West and we’re just emotional about them.”

Quick facts

•There are 33,780 wild horses and 6,825 burros managed under the act.

•There are 10 states with wild horse and/or burro management sites.

•Wyoming has the second highest number of wild horses with 3,459, behind Nevada with 18,764. Wyoming does not have any burros.

•Wyoming’s maximum appropriate management level is 3,725.

•In short-term holding facilities, Wyoming has 206 at Chugwater, 665 in Rock Springs and 185 at the Riverton Honor Farm. There are 294 Centennial/geldings listed under eco-sanctuary.

As provided by the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Act website