“Our clients wanted to intervene in the case to defend wild horses from the pro-ranching special interests and their allies in state government. Our clients’ goal is to prevent the federal government from acceding to their claims that the horses must be removed from the public lands to protect the private livestock that are allowed to graze on the same lands,” said Caitlin Zittkowski, of Meyer, Glitzenstein and Crystal, the Washington-DC based law firm that is representing the groups and individuals intervening in the case.
Last year, the BLM settled a similar legal attack by pro-ranching interests in Wyoming, agreeing to decimate nearly half of the state’s remaining wild horse population. This settlement was then used to justify the blatantly illegal roundup of 1,263 wild horses from three Herd Management Areas in Wyoming last fall, an action that is the subject of active litigation filed by the same organizations and individuals.
Under the current Administration, the BLM has rounded up so many wild horses that the number of mustangs stockpiled in government warehouses (nearly 50,000) now exceeds the number that remain free in the wild (under 40,000).
Statewide, Wyoming’s wild horse population levels are far below the high Appropriate Management Level of 3,722 wild horses, a number established by land use plans throughout the state.
The advocates maintain that the governor’s decision to expend public resources on a lawsuit against the BLM is ironic for a state with so few wild horses remaining, and one that promotes wild horses in tourism videos that tout Wyoming as a state that remains untamed, wild and free.
In Wyoming, wild horse numbers are dwarfed by the number of livestock grazing on public lands at taxpayer expense. Fewer than 2,500 wild horses remain on just 3.2 million acres of public rangeland, while hundreds of thousands of livestock graze 18 million acres of public land in the state. Put another way, wild horses are present in Wyoming on just 2 percent of the BLM land grazed by livestock.
Paula Todd King
The Cloud Foundation