In August of this year, the state of Wyoming will likely go to court against the US Department of the Interior (DOI). According to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) data, the wild horse population on public lands in the state of Wyoming exceeds the carrying capacity by 475 horses. As part of the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, the DOI is required to manage the population across the western United States. The department rounds up the excess animals and sets them up for adoption. The department and the BLM have not done anything with the extra 475 wild horses. The state of Wyoming gave the federal government 60 days to either act or at least respond to their request of managing the wild horse population, which they did neither of.
Wyoming Governor Matt Mead said too many wild horses can harm habitat used by other wildlife species, including sage grouse, deer and elk. He says overgrazing by horses can even threaten the horses themselves. “It is my belief, and the belief of other western governors, that the BLM does not have the resources to manage wild horses effectively,” Governer Mead said. “By filing suit, it sends a message that wild horse management is a priority and the BLM must be provided the funding necessary to manage them.”
While the state of Wyoming wants to the see the population of horses and burros put under control, there are other organizations saying they want the BLM to stop their management practices. The American Wild Horse Preservation and many other activists are angered by the BLM’s roundup that occurred in September of 2014 in the Salt Wells Herd Management Area. According to the BLM website, they removed 685 horses from the area, saying it was what the ranchers wanted. This information contradicts the state of Wyoming’s claim that the BLM did not do its job under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act; however, the BLM removed 115 more horses than the number they said constituted overpopulation. This issue will be of concern to Wyoming residents and land owners over the next several years.
Overpopulation of the wild horses means more horses roaming the state, leading to a higher chance of those horses finding their way to privately owned lands. Home and land owners could see horses on their land more than in previous years. Landowners are allowed to call the BLM when wild horses venture onto their property to have them removed. However, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burro Act states that a landowner may let horses stay on their property, but must provide an accurate number to the BLM of the number of horses on their property. In the next couple years, it could be essential for landowners to let wild horses live on their lands in order to spread out the population and reduce the numbers of horses on public lands.