Wild horse stakeholders discuss fertility control, public land use and herd management 

As part of Wyoming Public Media’s ‘I respectfully disagree‘ series, four panelists discussed issues surrounding wild horses in the state on a Facebook live.

Stakeholders spoke for an hour on topics such as herd management, fertility control and housing facilities.

The panelists were Suzanne Roy, the executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign; Brian Boner, a Wyoming senator representing District 2; Christi Chapman, the director and co-founder of Wyoming Wild Horse Improvement Partnership; and Erik Molvar, the executive director of the Western Watershed Project.

One issue the panelists focused on was whether cattle or wild horses should have right-of-way on public land.

Boner said wild horses need to be managed at lower numbers so farming can continue to thrive

“These farmers in these parts of the state have been doing this for a very long time. It’s part of our heritage, as well as part of our economy, and we need to find a balance, which includes farmers having the ability to make a living and still have wild horses,” he said.

But, Roy said that in areas where wild horses roam, they should have priority.

“In the world where we are losing so much of wildness, it matters, and people want to see it. And the horses are really an integral part of that,” said Roy. “In Wyoming and elsewhere in the West, we still have a corner of the West where wild horses still run free. It’s really cool. This is something we have to save.”

The panelists did find some common ground on the checkerboard land issue in southwestern Wyoming. This is where there are alternating sections of one mile of public and private land.

This resulted in more than a decade of legal battles between the landowners and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM is currently suggest some solutions to wild horses roaming on private land. One option includes significantly reducing herd sizes in several herd management areas and eliminating horses in other areas through roundups and relocation.

Molvar said the ideal solution is not to reduce herd sizes, but to do a land swap between private owners and the BLM that would consolidate public land into a larger area.

“The wild horses could be kept on the public lands, and they could easily not be allowed to go onto the private lands,” Molvar said.

Boner said as a farmer and landowner, he would find a land swap beneficial. In fact, he said it’s something the legislature has explored with other issues such as oil and gas development.

“We also looked at it from the state’s perspective to do a land swap with the federal government to make sure that we could have the greatest benefit for those trust beneficiaries for our state land,” Boner said.

Panelists also discussed how to address wild horse population control. Roy and Molvar said the land can actually handle more wild horses than the BLM manages. Currently the BLM manages 3,725 wild horses on five million hectares in the state.

“We would like to see the return of native predators, such as wolves, such as mountain lions, bears in these landscapes, because they are the natural predators of wild horses,” Molvar said. “And in other states, where these types of predators occur, you see pretty significant predation on wild horses and, and we’d like to see a more natural balance on public land, and in cases where natural solutions can be the solution.”

But Chapman disagreed. She said things like predation and fertility control can help with herd sizes, but they are not the solution.

“There is a thriving population of grizzly bears and wolves and mountain lions on the Wind River Reserve private holdings. And yet, they numbers [of horses] is significantly higher than the rest of the state,” Chapman said. “So we have to look at the whole picture.”

Chapman said rounding up the wild horses to reduce herd sizes is part of the solution.

Click to listen to the full conversation here.

Copyright 2022 Wyoming Public Radio. To see more, visit Wyoming Public Radio.

Related Posts