Photo of Great Divide Basin Herd by Kimerlee Curyl
Public Comment Deadline: January 10, 2014

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is about to embark on the next step in its devastating plan to wipe out nearly half of Wyoming's remaining wild horse population. The agency is seeking public comments on the proposed roundup of 164 wild horses from the Great Divide Basin Herd Management Area (HMA). The action begins the BLM's plan to eradicate wild horses from ("zero out") this important Wyoming HMA. 

Just over two years ago, the BLM captured and removed 1,000 wild horses from Divide Basin. Now the agency is again planning to use our tax dollars for another helicopter roundup that will terrorize and traumatize these animals.The action is completely unjustified because the HMA is well within the allowable management level (AML) of 415-600 horses set by the BLM itself! The sole purpose of this roundup is to appease local ranchers who want all wild horses removed from the checkerboard portion of the HMA, an area that comprises nearly half of the HMA. (See below for more information.)

Let's start 2014 -- Year of the Horse -- right by getting in thousands of public comments urging the BLM to consider alternatives to the proposed action and laying out the specific environmental and social impacts that must be analyzed before this action can begin to go forward. 

If you prefer, you can submit your comments no later than January 10, 2014 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 “Divide Basin Scoping Comment” in the subject line.)

Background Information

Great Divide Basin HMA

The Great Divide Basin HMA encompasses 778,915 acres, of which 562,702 acres are BLM - administered public lands. The management area is located 40 miles east of Rock Springs, to the Rawlins/Rock Springs field office boundary, west to the Continental Divide, and north of I-80 to just south of South Pass City. The northern portion of the herd management area consists primarily of consolidated public lands with state school sections and small parcels of private land making up the remaining lands. The southern portion is in the checkerboard land ownership area created by the Union Pacific Railroad grant. Topography within the herd area is generally gently rolling hills and slopes with some tall buttes and streams. Elevations range roughly from 6,200 to 8,700 feet. Precipitation ranges 6-10 inches, predominately in the form of snow.

The AML for this HMA is 415-600 horses. Most horses are bay, sorrel, black, brown, paint, buckskin, or gray, but many colors and combinations are present.

Four livestock grazing allotments in the Great Divide Basin HMA are authorized to use 17-26 TIMES MORE forage and water than are the federally-protected wild horses. The BLM also authorizes significant oil and gas development and operations on the public lands in this HMA.

Between October 25 and November 11, 2011, the BLM conducted a massive helicopter roundup in the Divide Basin HMA, capturing 1,132 wild horses and permanently removing 993 of them from their homes on the range. 

Rock Springs Grazing Association vs. Department of the Interior

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 were not able to stop the government from giving the ranchers exactly what they wanted. The Great Divide Basin roundup is the next step in a destructive plan that will negatively impact and jeopardize the survival of nearly half of Wyoming's remaining wild horses. (The first step was the November 2013 roundup in the Salt Wells HMA.)

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 and permanently reducing genetic variability that is necessary for the long-term survival of these herds.

  • Cut by more than half the number of wild horses allowed to live in the Adobe Town Herd Management Area, also reducing genetic viability and variability of this herd. 

More information:

2011 Environmental Assessment 

2011 Gather Reports

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

Federal Court Sanctions Gov't Plan to Eliminate Wild Horses from Wyoming Checkerboard