The bureau initially planned to begin the roundup today (Tuesday), but changed the date to Thursday, Sept. 3, after The Cloud Foundation and Front Range Equine Rescue filed a lawsuit in federal court on Friday to halt the gather. A decision on the …
The Bureau of Land Management plans to roundup 70 of the approximate 190 wild horses in the Pryor Mountains northeast of Lovell this week.
The bureau initially planned to begin the roundup today (Tuesday), but changed the date to Thursday, Sept. 3, after The Cloud Foundation and Front Range Equine Rescue filed a lawsuit in federal court on Friday to halt the gather. A decision on the organizations' request for injunctive relief is expected before Thursday.
In an August gather plan, Billings BLM Field Manager Jim Sparks outlined the strategy: to gather nearly all the horses in the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range and the 39 outside the range in the Custer National Forest.
The roundup is slated to begin Thursday and will last until 70 wild horses are caught.
“It is my decision to implement the proposed action,” in accordance with the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range gather plan an an environmental assessment, Sparks wrote. “Nearly all wild horses from the PMWHR and adjacent lands will be gathered, fertility control applied to up to 60 mares, sex ratios balanced (50-50 male-female balance) when applicable and up to 70 adult wild horses and any foals with identified mares will be removed, and the population will be managed at 120 wild horses within the PMWHR.”
Public access to the horse range will be prohibited during the roundup, beginning Thursday.
Before the date was pushed back two days, Greg Albright, bureau public affairs officer in Billings, said the goal was to have the gather completed on or before Sept. 10.
Adoption will take place at Britton Springs, northeast of Lovell, on Sept. 26. Details of the adoption will be available after the gather is completed, said Jared Bybee, bureau wild horse and burro specialist in Billings.
“If all goes well,” Albright said, “we'll have 70 head at Britton Springs.”
Albright said the bureau has never had difficulty securing owners for all the Pryor horses made available for adoption.
One or two helicopters will be used to herd the horses, Bybee said.
The 39 horses in national forest will be driven out of the forest, but keeping them out may be impracticable because portions of a buck-and-pole fence that separates forest land from bureau land is down in places.
Because of an ongoing lawsuit, the bureau is unable to make the necessary repairs to the fence.
Bybee is tasked with maintaining an appropriate management level or a specific number of horses the range can support without harming that range while at the same time managing for other interests such as recreation or cattle.
“We're just trying to get in conformance with the law and both the land and horses,” Bybee said.
There is opposition to the roundup.
The Cloud Foundation and Front Range Equine Rescue have filed the lawsuit and a request for an injunction in federal court in Washington, D.C., to prohibit the bureau from rounding up and removing horses from the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range, according to a news release from the Cloud Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“The appellants argue that this removal of 70 horses will leave this unique and historical herd genetically non-viable and unable to sustain itself into the future,” the news release said.
The public will be barred from entering the horse range during the gather for both the horses and their safety.