Did you know that in 2013 when the Bureau of Land Management signed a Consent Decree with the Rock Springs Grazing Association (RSGA) to settle litigation dating back to 1979, the agency agreed to deprive U.S. taxpayers of more than one million acres of public lands in Wyoming formerly available for wild horse use – and handed it over to the RSGA so it can use the land primarily for grazing doomed sheep? Meanwhile, U.S. taxpayers are required to foot the bill – $49 million dollars a year in 2015 alone – for holding facilities where wild horses removed from public lands are held captive – forever – on feedlots.
This shocking and disturbing betrayal of the American public and America’s wild horses is revealed in the comments Friends of Animals recently submitted to the Rock Springs and Rawlings Field Offices in response to the unsigned Finding of No Significant Impact for the 2014 removal of wild horses from the Checkerboard within the Great Divide Basin, Salt Wells Creek and Adobe Town herd management areas. FoA is adamant that the closure of more than a million acres of public lands for the benefit of private grazing interests violates the Unlawful Inclosures of Public Lands Act, and the 2014 Checkerboard Removal constituted an illegal commitment of Federal resources prior to the completion of NEPA analysis.
NEPA requires that an agency take “a hard look” at the impacts of an action prior to making an irreversible and irretrievable commitment of resources; and BLM has not done so. The 2015 Checkerboard Removal EA specifically states that the decision to remove horses was not based on NEPA analysis but on various agreements to resolve litigation with a private grazing organization. Furthermore, eliminating wild horses from over a million acres of public land constitutes a significant impact on wild horses, which alone constitutes a significant environmental impact requiring the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement.
Friends of Animals advocates for wild horses to be recognized as an integral part of the natural system of public lands, and for the BLM to return some of the wild horses removed from the Checkerboard now enslaved in holding facilities back to the range.
To read FoA’s comments in their entirety, click here.