Advocates to Wyoming: Stop Scapegoating Wild Horses

Wild Horse Campaign Accuses House Ag. Committee of Riding Roughshod Over Truth in Claiming Mustang “Overpopulation”

Wild horses on a hill. Photo Credit BLMJanuary 30, 2015

Cheyenne, WY (January 30, 2015) . . . . A coalition of wild horse advocacy groups today charged the Wyoming House Agriculture Committee with deliberately misleading the public by passing a resolution yesterday calling on the federal government to address an alleged wild horse overpopulation in the state. In reality, just 2,500 wild horses survive in Wyoming. and their numbers are dwarfed by privately-owned livestock grazing on Wyoming’s public lands. The total wild horse population in Wyoming is actually beneath the allowable level set by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the agency tasked with managing wild horses in the West.

“The state’s hyper-focus on the small number of wild that survive in Wyoming is a deliberate ploy to divert attention away from the immense problem of massive livestock grazing on public lands in the state,” said Suzanne Roy, AWHPC Director. “Livestock grazing on Wyoming public exacts huge costs to the environment, to wildlife – including wild horses, and to American taxpayers, who have subsidized this activity to the tune of more than $1 billion over the past decade. Instead of addressing this problem, Wyoming ranching interests and their political allies are shifting the focus to a relative handful of wild horses that cling to a tenuous existence in an increasingly shrinking habitat in the state.”

“Wyoming uses wild horses in tourism videos to promote itself as a place where the untamed spirit of the West survives, yet it won’t stop until these cherished national icons and symbols of freedom are gone from the landscape,” Roy continued. “This hypocrisy is on full display in the Wyoming House Agriculture Committee resolution falsely claiming an overpopulation of wild horses in hopes of getting the federal government to remove even more wild horses from public lands in the state.”

According to AWHPC, in Wyoming:

  •  2,500 wild horses remain on 3.6 million acres of BLM land – a density of one horse per 1,400 acres. This is beneath the allowable level of 3,725 mustangs authorized to live on BLM lands in the state. (Source*)
  • Hundreds of thousands of livestock graze on 17.6 million acres of BLM land.
  • Wild horses are present on just 20% of BLM land available for livestock grazing.

AWHPC noted that national polls demonstrate that 72 percent of Americans support protecting wild horses on public lands while only 29 percent want to ensure that those lands are available for livestock grazing. Meanwhile, 80 percent of Americans oppose horses slaughter.

Ranchers in Wyoming and elsewhere graze livestock on federal lands across the West and are charged a grazing fee ($1.35 per Animal Unit Month) that is a fraction of market rate. The public lands grazing program operates at a staggering loss to taxpayers, who pay $125 million annually in grazing subsidies – or more than $1 billion over the past decade, according to a new report released this week. Ranchers see federally-protected wild horses as competition for cheap, subsidized grazing on public lands and are increasingly vocal in demanding their removal.

Currently the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign – with its coalition partners The Cloud Foundation and Return to Freedom, and wild horse photographers Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl – are defending wild horses as interveners in a state lawsuit against the BLM and are suing the BLM over its massive removal of 1,263 wild horses from the Wyoming Checkerboard last fall. The checkerboard removal was undertaken to appease the Rock Springs Grazing Association, whose members graze sheep and cattle on the public lands in the area.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 70 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. AWHPC was founded in 2004 by Return to Freedom, a national non-profit dedicated to wild horse preservation through sanctuary, education and conservation.

 *BLM 2014 population estimate of 3,771 horses published before agency removed 1,263 horses in fall of 2014.