A family-owned daily newspaper serving Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming since 1949

BLM wants to accelerate date of wild horse gather locally

Mar 19, 2017 - By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

The federal Bureau of Land Management has a wild horse gather planned for 2018 on its North Lander Complex, but local superintendent Rick Vander Voet said he'd like to move that up to this year if possible.

"We're way over the desired population," he told Fremont County Commissioners last week.

Vander Voet said the region, which lies directly north of Sweetwater Station, should be managed to have between 480 and 720 horses; the BLM would like to be on the low end of that range.

Vander Voet said the federal agency has had more than 7,000 comments on the proposal so far.

Many local ranchers consider wild horses to be a nuisance because they take available forage away from livestock.

If a drought re-emerges, Vander Voet said that issue could be exacerbated.

He said it would be more efficient to complete the work after completing a gather in the Red Desert now scheduled to happen this year.

Court ruling

However, the Red Desert gather is threatened by a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision last year to limit the BLM's gathering practices in Wyoming's "checkerboard" -- a long stretch of land in southern part of the state that contains alternating plots of private and federal land established in conjunction with a historic train route.

The circuit court overturned a lower court's decision Oct. 14 when it determined the BLM violated 1971 federal protections of wild horses by treating the public sections of the checkerboard as private land.

While the Red Desert complex does not include checkerboard land, it does include some private land.

Although not for a while, the court decision also could affect the number of horses available for the Wyoming Honor Farm's prison farm gentling program.

The BLM has a reserve stock of horses available, because horses often take up to two years to end up at the Wyoming Honor Farm after capture.

After a round-up, horses are sent to a prep facility where they are vaccinated, dewormed and freeze-marked.

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