Neguse joins calls to BLM to halt wild horse roundup in Sand Wash Basin
Colorado wildlife groups say livestock grazing should also stop
After Gov. Jared Polis on Monday called on the Bureau of Land Management to stop a helicopter horse roundup in the Sand Wash Basin near Craig, another high-profile elected official joined in the effort Tuesday when Rep. Joe Neguse also penned a letter to the bureau.
Neguse, who represents Vail and other parts of Eagle County in the U.S. House of Representatives, asked Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and BLM Deputy Director Nada Wolff Culver to postpone the roundup, which was scheduled to begin Wednesday and expected to continue for the next 14-25 days.
The BLM, as of Tuesday, gave no indication of plans to halt the effort, which aims to gather approximately 783 wild horses from the Sand Wash Basin.
Colorado BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Manager Steve Leonard said the roundup “absolutely needs to happen.”
BLM Little Snake Field Office Manager Bruce Sillitoe echoed the statement, saying the roundup is considered an “emergency gather” which will “prevent further deteriorating body condition of the wild horses into the winter due to limited forage resources” due to exceptional drought.
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The Colorado Chapter of the Sierra Club, however, says livestock grazing, not wild horses, has resulted in damage to the range. Leonard said cattle haven’t been in the area for years but sheep do graze on BLM lands in the Sand Wash Basin.
Sierra Club Colorado Wildlife Chair Delia Malone pointed out in a letter this week that grazing allotments in the area aren’t meeting the BLM’s land health standards due to livestock use.
“We encourage the BLM to promptly use their authority, after environmental analysis and public input, to reduce or eliminate livestock from the (Sand Wash Basin),” Malone said in a statement.
Other Colorado-based advocates have expressed similar concerns. One of the longest-existing horse advocacy groups in the nation, the Cloud Foundation, is based in Colorado.
“Despite the extreme drought reported in Colorado this year, the BLM continued to allow private livestock to graze in the Sand Wash Basin,” the Cloud Foundation said in a letter issued Tuesday.
“Nothing could be worse for a wild horse than to be rounded up by helicopter, separated from their families and incarcerated in cramped holding facilities,” said Ginger Kathrens, founder and Board President of the Cloud Foundation. “In my three decades of documenting wild horses in their natural environment I’ve learned that they cherish freedom and family above all else. These animals are protected by federal law. They represent the pioneer spirit of this nation and they deserve to be treated humanely.”
Neguse, who has been vocal in his non-support of helicopter horse roundups in recent years, said he has heard numerous concerns from Coloradans regarding the number of wild horses being removed from public lands in Colorado.
A recent roundup in the West Douglas area south or Rangely removed 457 horses from BLM land in the area, with 10 horses killed during the effort. It was the largest helicopter roundup in Colorado’s history, and the Sand Wash Basin roundup is targeted to be even bigger.
“Coloradans have also raised concerns about the well-being of horses gathered through these roundups — both during and after a gather takes place — and with a roundup of this scope, there are safety concerns for these horses,“ Neguse wrote in the Aug. 31 letter. ”I would respectfully ask that you postpone the scheduled roundups in order to have a more thorough and robust stakeholder and community engagement process, and work with local and state partners to craft a solution for the long-term well-being of these horses.“