Time short to comment on wild-horse plan
The Bureau of Land Management is asking that any public comments be submitted by Wednesday on an environmental assessment on proposed removals of wild horses outside its Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area southeast of Rangely.
The agency wants to use helicopters and/or bait and water to trap horses for removal in coming years, and its plans include a proposal this fall to remove up to 72 horses using a helicopter.
The 190,130-acre Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area is east of Colorado Highway 139, south of Colorado Highway 64, and west of Colorado Highway 13.
“The BLM is committed to maintaining a healthy wild horse population on healthy rangelands in the Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area,” BLM Acting White River Field Manager Lauren Brown said in a news release. “Wild horses that stray from the established Herd Management Area need to be removed to reduce conflicts with other resources and private land under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.”
The BLM estimates there are 210 wild horses outside the management area, but within a larger, 773,000-acre area generally bound by the same highways and located mostly in Rio Blanco County. But the agency’s national wild horse and burro program office estimates it would have space in short- and long-term holding facilities this fiscal year for up to 72 horses from the BLM’s White River Field Office, which is based in Meeker.
The BLM seeks to gather and remove excess horses due to impacts such as excess foraging on public and private lands. It estimates that the Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area is home to more than 450 wild horses, far above the 135 to 235 horses the agency considers to be appropriate for that area.
It has held 18 gathers and removals over 37 years to try to reduce numbers in and around the management area, with varying levels of success. The last was conducted in 2011.
This fall’s proposed gather comes amid continuing national debate over what to do about the nation’s burgeoning wild horse numbers. The BLM spends nearly $50 million annually to keep 45,000 unadopted wild horses and burros in holding facilities. The Trump administration budget for the 2018 fiscal year would remove certain restrictions on management of the horses. Wild-horse advocates say that would allow horses to be sold for slaughter, while supporters say the change is needed to ease the financial burden on the BLM and enable it to better protect rangeland.