Aug 26, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer at The Ranger newspaper (Photo from FoA)
A meeting in Riverton hosted by a group that advises on national policy for wild horses became a lightning rod Monday for the ire of parties on all sides of the issue.
Some local residents and national advocacy groups sounded exasperated as they called for common sense and cooperation, while others drew clear lines in the sand far from the positions of the rest.
Roughly 100 people packed Central Wyoming College's Little Theater for the Bureau of Land Management's Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting. Most of the nation's roughly 50,000 wild horses and burros live on BLM land.
During a public comment period, Dick Loper of Lander called for more management in measured tones.
"I think we recognize that there is room for an appropriate number of horses, livestock and wildlife ... but we cannot survive three to five years of an ineffective wild horse management program," he said. "Wyoming ranchers do need your help, wildlife needs your help and the horses need your help."
A planned roundup of wild horses on checkerboard lands near Rock Springs is a current concern for many parties involved.
A 2013 federal court decision affirmed BLM should follow the request from ranchers to remove 800 horses from the area, which is a patchwork of state, BLM and private land. Earlier this month, however, a wild horse advocacy group filed a lawsuit in U.S. court delaying the roundup scheduled for Sept. 1.
Paula King, a New Mexico resident and a member of the wild horse advocacy group the Cloud Foundation, asked the BLM to consider lowering the number of livestock rather than wild horses.
"There are over 356,000 head of cattle and about 45,000 head of sheep in the three (herd management areas) that are designated to be zeroed out compared to 1,900 wild horses," she said, referring to the checkerboard area. "We need to look at the number of cattle and sheep out there and not the number of wild horses out there."
Individuals from other organizations also gave comments.
Jim Penzien spoke about the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's position.
"We call on Congress to use any and all means, including capture and removal and birth control, to bring horse and burro populations under management levels," he said.
John Radosevich said there were too many horses, questioned their mustang heritage and suggested there be small reserves.
"It's highly unlikely that any of these horses are descendants of Spanish horses, they're mostly ranch horses," he said.
He drew boos from horse advocates with his last comment: "Here's the solution to the unwanted horses," he said, holding up a can of soup.
The horse advocates also staked out hard lines.
"We believe it's time to end the BLM's and ranchers' criminal actions against (wild horses) and to halt further exploitation of this species and to end the brutally cruel roundups that rip the horses from their families and their homes," said Edita Birnkrant, a New York resident and member of Friends of the Animals.
Her organization and others recently filed a petition to have wild horses listed as an endangered species under the theory that wild horses were native to North America and were made extinct by humans some 10,000 years ago.