Photo of Salt Wells wild horse family by Carol Walker, Living Images.

Adobe Town/ Salt Wells Creek Roundup is Step One of Plan to Eliminate Wild Horses from 2 Million Acres of Protected Habitat

Public Comment Deadline: June 10, 2013

For the second time in less than three years, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is proposing a devastating roundup in Wyoming's Adobe Town/Salt Wells (ATSW) Complex, which is comprised of the Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek Herd Management Areas (HMAs). The Environmental Assessment (EA) for the roundup states, "All wild horses on private lands and on the checkerboard lands within the ATSW Complex would be removed."  Since the majority of the Salt Wells HMA is "checkerboard" (alternating public and private land parcels), and since the wild horses living there cannot tell the difference between public and private land, this action will "zero out" the majority of this HMA!

The BLM is conducting this roundup at the behest of the Rock Springs Grazing Association, a group of ranchers that, in 2011  -- at the urging of the Interior Department --  filed a lawsuit against the BLM seeking removal of all wild horses from a 2 million acre swath of land known as the "Wyoming Checkerboard." AWHPC, the Cloud Foundation and the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros intervened in the case, but we were not able to stop the govenrment from giving the ranchers exactly what they want. The Adobe Town/Salt Wells roundup is step one of a destructive plan that will negatively impact half of the state's remaining wild horses. 

Wild horss in Adobe Town HMA. Photo by Carol Walker, Living Images.

Our attorneys remain on the case to protect Wyoming's beautiful mustangs.  Meanwhile we need YOUR HELP to generate public opposition to this unnecessary, cynical and egregious wild horse roundup and removal plan. Please personalize and submit the sample letter below.  

If you prefer, you can submit your comments no later than June 10, 2013 via email, fax or U.S. postal mail to:

Jay D’Ewart, Wild Horse and Burro Specialist
BLM Rock Springs Field Office
280 Highway 191 North
Rock Springs, Wyoming 82901
Fax: (307) 352-0329

Electronic comments must be sent to the following email address to be considered:

(Please include “ATSW Public Comment” in the subject line.)

Environmental Assessment on Adobe Town/Salt Wells Creek HMA Roundup Plan

Background Information

Adobe Town HMA

The Adobe Town HMA is located in south-central Wyoming between Interstate 80 and the Colorado/Wyoming border. It encompasses 472,812 acres of which 444,744 are BLM-administered public lands. The topography of the area is varied with everything from colorful eroded desert badlands to wooded buttes and escarpments. In between are extensive rolling to rough uplands interspersed with some desert playa and vegetated dune areas. Limited, sensitive desert riparian areas are important features of the landscape. Winters are long and severe. Annual precipitation ranges from less than seven inches in the desert basins to more than twelve inches at some of the higher elevations. Elevation ranges from 6600 ft to 7800 ft along Kinney Rim, which forms the western boundary of the HMA. Some of the HMA is in the Adobe Town Wilderness Study Area. Other features in the area include the Cherokee Trail, the Haystacks, and Powder Rim. The Allowable Management Level for wild horses in this HMA is 610-800, with BLM managing for a target population of 700. The current estimated wild horse population in the Adobe Town HMA is BELOW the low end of the AML at 433 horses.

Salt Wells Creek HMA

The Salt Wells HMA encompasses 1,193,283 acres, of which 724,704 acres are BLM-administered public lands. The majority of the herd management area consists primarily of checkerboard land ownership area created by the Union Pacific Railroad grant in the Northern portion. Consolidated public lands with state school sections and small parcels of private land making up the majority of lands in the southern section of the HMA. Topography within the herd area is generally gently rolling hills. There are several small streams passing through the area, and some high ridges. Elevations range roughly from 6,300 to 7,900 feet. Precipitation ranges 7-10 inches in lower elevations and 15-17 inches at higher elevations, predominately in the form of snow. The area is unfenced other than portions of boundary fence and right-of-way boundaries along I-80.

The AML for this HMA is 251-365 horses. The current population is estimated to be 572 wild horses. A full range of colors is present. This herd has a high number of palominos and sorrels with flaxen manes and tails. Other horses' colors are bay, brown, black, paint, buckskin, or gray. 

Livestock Grazing in the Complex

22 livestock grazing allotments lie partially or wholly within the Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek Herd Management Areas.

The BLM allocates a total of 177,829 Animal Unit Months (AUMs) for livestock grazing in these 22 allotments. This is the annual equivalent of 14,819 cow/calf pairs or 74,095 sheep. Meanwhile the agency allows a MAXIMUM of 1,165 wild horses in these two HMAs.

2013 Consent Decree

In April 2013, the U.S. District Court in Wyoming approved a Consent Decree to settle a lawsuit by the Rock Springs Grazing Association against the BLM and the Department of the Interior seeking the removal of all wild horses from the Wyoming checkerboard lands. Under the terms of the settlement, the federal government has agreed to the following devastating actions: 

  • Reduce the maximum number of wild free-roaming horses allowed in the state of Wyoming by 46%, from 3,685 to 2,070. An additional 205-300 sterilized horses (castrated stallions and spayed mares) would be allowed to remain on the land.

  • Zero out (entirely eliminate) wild horses from the Salt Wells and Great Divide Basin Herd Management Areas (HMAs);

  • Sterilize wild horses in the White Mountain HMA, thus destroying the federally-protected wild free-roaming behaviors of the mustangs who are a popular tourist attraction

  • Cut by more than half the number of wild horses allowed to live in the famed Adobe Town Herd Management Area.

More information:

Link to other BLM NEPA Documents

AWHPC news release on settlement of RSGA lawsuit

Photographer Carol Walker's Blog:

"Wild Horses: Please Comment by June 10 on BLM's Wyoming Wild Horse Removal Plan"

"Wild Horses: Only the Complete Destruction of the Red Desert Herds Will Do"

The Atlantic, "On Wyoming's Range, Water is Scarce, but Welfare is Plenty"

2010 BLM Adobe Town/Salt Wells Creek Gather Reports