By Carol Walker, Director of Field Documentation, Wild Horse Freedom Federation
In my experience, High Country News only prints opinions or articles against wild horses. I offered several times over the past 10 years to write a piece about wild horses and was told there was no interest.
First of all, Wild horses should not be referred to as “feral”. There is plenty of scientific evidence that horses evolved here in North America.
It is very convenient for ranchers to assign any and all degradation of land to grazing from wild horses even though in their Herd Management Areas, wild horses are outnumbered by grazing livestock from 50 to 100 to 1. There is no “exploding population” of wild horses on our public lands. Even if the BLM’s counts are accurate, 72,000 wild horses on public lands is an extremely small number compared to the 8 million head of livestock. In my experience, ranchers especially in Wyoming have zero tolerance for having any wild horses sharing the public lands despite the supposed “mixed use” tenant that the BLM touts at every opportunity. I spent three weeks in October in Wyoming at the BLM’s Checkerboard Roundup where they removed not only 1560 wild horses but also illegally removed an additional 408 wild horses, so that a total of 1968 wild horses lost their freedom and families, due in most part to complaints and threats by the O’Tooles and ranchers in the Rock Springs Grazing Association who see the public lands that they lease as “their land” even though it is not – it belongs to all American citizens. The O’Tooles are welfare ranchers. They are paying a ridiculously low fee far below market rate to graze their livestock on public lands, making their money at taxpayer expense. They want no competition with their grazing “rights” which are not rights but privileges.
I was there when the helicopters were driving wild horses off the land grazed by the O’Tooles, and watched horses that had been together for many years losing their families. These horses were hauled off to be shipped to either Rock Springs, Axtell, Utah where they wait for the decision to be made in Congress whether they will live or die. These horses were not starving to death, in fact I was told that they overwhelmingly had a body score of 5, on a scale of 1-5 where 5 is excellent condition.
I am a plaintiff on the current lawsuit against the BLM who illegally removed more horses than they had analyzed with NEPA and I was a plaintiff in the Checkerboard lawsuit in 2014 where the BLM attempted to manage public lands in the Checkerboard as though they were private. We won our case in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Right now lawsuits are the only thing standing between the greed and power of these Grazing Association ranchers who seek to destroy America’s last wild horses.
Wild horses are not pests, they are not destroying the rangeland, and they belong on our public lands in their legally established Herd Management Areas. They should be managed humanely on the range using reversible birth control when necessary when the herds have enough horses to maintain genetic viability. Helicopter Roundups and Bait Trapping should be stopped right now. The 46,000 wild horses currently housed in short and long term holding facilities, including those rounded up last month from the Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek and Great Divide Basin Herd Management Herd Management Areas should not be shipped to slaughter or shot at the holding facilities and buried in trenches. They should be released into the 22 million acres that used to be Herd Management Areas and have been taken away from wild horses since 1971 and allowed to live out their lives. Our public lands should not be managed solely for the benefit of livestock ranchers. These lands belong to all of us in the United States as do these wild horses.
You can find my blog posts about the roundup in October on my blog at