The Bureau of Land Management is hoping to conduct roundups this year to remove hundreds of wild horses near Grand Junction, Meeker and in Moffat County.
The agency's Grand Junction Field Office is seeking public comments on an environmental assessment evaluating using bait and water to attract and corral wild horses in the Little Book Cliffs Herd Management Area northeast of Grand Junction, and to remove about 60 horses.
The BLM also is proposing to gather and remove all excess wild horses that are outside the designated Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area outside Meeker, or 374 horses, through means such as bait-trapping and use of helicopters. It also is seeking to remove approximately 514 excess wild horses from the Sand Wash Basin Herd Management Area and adjacent areas near Maybell using bait and water trapping.
The Little Book Cliffs area covers more than 36,000 acres, and the BLM says the appropriate management level there is between 90 and 150 horses. The current estimated population is more than 175 horses.
The BLM works with the Friends of the Mustangs group to help manage the herd size, and has been employing darting involving a temporary vaccine to control fertility in mares.
Katie Stevens, BLM's Grand Junction field manager, said in a news release, "While we have been successful at reducing birth rates and extending the time between gathers to an average of five years, periodic gathers are still necessary in order to keep the range healthy enough to support the herd long-term."
The agency says high herd numbers in the Little Book Cliffs are resulting in severe use of vegetation forage by the animals in an area beset by drought conditions.
The BLM may use helicopters as well to gather horses there if needed. Any mare it gathers but deems unsuitable for removal will receive fertility treatment if they haven't already been treated, before being released.
Removed Little Book Cliffs horses would be taken to a temporary local holding facility, and then to a Cañon City holding facility for freeze branding and vaccinations in preparation for adoption. Some horses then would be returned to Grand Junction or other Western Slope areas to be offered for adoption.
An environmental assessment on the Little Book Cliffs proposal may be found at go.usa.gov/xQm6V. For comments to be considered, they must be received by July 5 via mail to the BLM Grand Junction Field Office, 2815 H Road, Grand Junction, CO 81506 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wild horse roundups are approved by the BLM at a national level based on funding and priority. The BLM hasn't yet received approval for its proposed Sand Wash Basin and Piceance-East Douglas operations, but is developing plans for them in case approval is obtained.
While the Piceance-East Douglas herd within the management area consists of 532 horses, far above the established appropriate management level of between 135 and 235 horses, the agency's current proposal there is focused on horses outside the management area. For more information and to comment on this proposal, go to go.usa.gov/xQGGW.
The Sand Wash Basin herd consists of an estimated 677 horses in the management area and another 70 outside of it. The management level for that area is 163 to 362 horses. For more information and to comment on the proposal there, go to go.usa.gov/xQGdT.