Wyoming wild horse pilot project announced
by Nancy H. Ruskowsky
The Wyoming State Grazing Board, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding plans for older wild horses during the joint WSGA/WWGA convention Dec. 4.
Both wild horses, no longer considered adoptable, and the environment they call home will benefit from the pilot project, intended to relieve pressure on public lands from an ever-increasing wild horse population in the state.
The development has taken a great deal of time, negotiations and planning, according to Jim Schwartz, WDA deputy director, who has been involved for nearly a year in ironing out the details.
In an attempt to create a win-win project the plan was carefully crafted by representatives of all three groups. The goal was to find humane means to move older horses to private range, avoid the suspicion of the horses being claimed by anyone intending to make money at the expense of the animals and giving the natural resources time to heal.
The plan, which is now in the application stage, will start with 200 horses available for four ranchers or more. Applicants may start by taking up to 10 wild mares of the rancher’s choice with the possibility of adding up to 50 geldings selected by BLM gate cut to their wild horse herds. Through a Department of Interior grant participants will be paid $1,000 to offset care costs for each gelding up to $50,000. Ranchers must keep all the horses for the duration of their natural lives, allowing them to roam freely on private grazing just as they did on public lands.
While those participating will be allowed to keep any colts born during the horses’ care, there are some rules. For one thing, the animals cannot be pastured next to a wild horse area. Ranchers need to understand that this is a life-long commitment ” that of the natural life of the animal.
“We want to stress that we’re interested in taking care of the horses and the rangeland and we hope that this pilot project can be another one of the tools used to protect the horses as Dick Loper, a consultant to the grazing board so aptly put it,” Schwartz said.
For Wyoming ranchers wanting to apply applications can be picked up by phoning the Department of Agriculture at (307) 777-6569. The application asks for land mass offered, feed available and type of water as well as the number of horses the applicant would like to have. BLM officials will inspect the operations before homes are chosen for the first 200 horses.
“We’d like to have had this off the ground sooner, but needed to go slowly to insure the protection of the horses,” Schwartz concluded.
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The U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Horse Transportation Safety Act (HTSA) as part of a massive infrastructure bill, the INVEST in America Act.