By Trevor Graff, Casper Star Tribune
The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday to allow the removal of more than 800 horses form the checkerboard lands in southwest Wyoming.
The decision in favor of the Bureau of Land Management, the state of Wyoming and the Rock Springs Grazing Association allows for the removal of horses in the Great Divide Basin, Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek herd management areas.
BLM officials originally scheduled the roundup after a 2013 U.S. District Court ruling in favor of the Rock Springs Grazing Association. The order mandated the removal of the horses to protect the grazing interests of the group.
The grazing association's members control more than 731,700 acres of grazing land in the area.
BLM officials said the roundup would begin either Sunday or Monday.
Wild horse advocates say the BLM would be better-served managing the horses on the range rather than sending them to increasingly crowded holding facilities.
"We are surprised and saddened by this decision," said Ginger Katherins, executive director of the Cloud Foundation. "I'm concerned about where these horses are going to go."
She said that this year the range is in great condition with solid moisture levels that provide an environment she says is much better than BLM holding facilities are in their current state.
"I don't know anybody that can handle 806 horses," Katherins said. "I don't even know any of the facilities in the BLM's system that can handle that number of horses."
The state of Wyoming joined the case as an intervener to support Wyoming ranchers and wildlife from what it considers unmanaged horses.
“Wyoming is not against wild horses on public lands, but they must be managed appropriately," Gov. Matt Mead said. "Today’s ruling allows that to happen and protects Wyoming land, supports ranchers and wildlife, and it benefits wild horse populations.”
Rock Springs Grazing Association officials could not be reached Wednesday.