Leading Wild Horse Protection Organization Seeks Delay in CO Wild Horse Roundup

Legal Letter Contends Supplemental Environmental Review is Required Before Capture Operation Can Begin

Cañon City, Colo (June 22, 2022) - Today, the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) sent a legal letter to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) requesting the agency conduct a supplemental environmental analysis prior to launching Colorado’s next wild horse helicopter roundup, currently scheduled for mid-July in the Pieceance Herd Management Area (HMA) near Meeker. The letter was sent on behalf of AWHC by Eubanks & Associates, a leading public interest environmental law firm. 

The request for a supplemental environmental analysis – pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) – comes in light of new details concerning the BLM’s plan to permanently remove roughly 850 wild horses from the Piceance Basin. 

The Piceance roundup was originally scheduled to occur in September 2022. However, the agency recently sped up the timeline shortly after receiving requests from Colorado Governor Jared Polis  and Congressman Joe Neguse to delay the action. The BLM announced last week that it would begin bait trapping a small number of “malnourished” wild horses this month and would launch the large-scale helicopter roundup of hundreds of healthy Piceance wild horses on July 15. 

AWHC’s letter seeks delay of the helicopter portion of the capture operation. 

At least 145 wild horses recently died at a BLM government holding facility in Cañon City following an outbreak of the Equine Influenza Virus (“EIV”), a disease that captured wild horses were supposed to have been vaccinated against. An internal BLM assessment documented significant mismanagement at the Cañon City corrals, including understaffing, vaccination and other biosecurity failures, poor record-keeping, poor animal management, lack of basic equine care, inadequate shelter, and substandard facility maintenance. 

The problems at Cañon City, however, are merely representative of the larger, systemic issues with BLM’s off-range corrals across the West, which have been revealed over the last several weeks. (Once horses are removed from the wild, the animals are put into BLM managed short and long-term holding facilities.)

“BLM’s decision to initiate roundups in Piceance during the summer months entails potential problems that warrant further examination. This accelerated roundup will only fuel the cruel and inhumane conditions that have been documented at its off-range holding facilities,” said Suzanne Roy, AWHC executive director. “By rounding up and permanently removing nearly 850 horses from the Piceance Basin – immediately after the peak foaling season – BLM is seriously jeopardizing the welfare of newborn horses in areas explicitly meant for their protection.

In its legal letter, AWHC argues that at minimum, BLM’s misguided decision to press forward with the helicopter roundup merits additional scrutiny under NEPA to document and analyze the serious impacts stemming from the decision to rush the removal of the horses and the additional pressures those will place on the agency’s overwhelmed holding facilities. AWHC formally requests that the BLM prepare a supplemental environmental assessment pursuant to NEPA before the helicopter roundup proceeds, in order to consider both new changes to the action based on new information and circumstances regarding the impacts of the proposed action. 

In their requests to delay the roundup, Governor Polis and Congressman Neguse echoed concerns about animal welfare and biosecurity violations documented in BLM holding facilities also expressed by U.S. Representatives Titus and Cohen and five of their House colleagues in a letter requesting a federal oversight hearing. 

About the American Wild Horse Campaign

The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is the nation's leading wild horse protection organization, with more than 700,000 supporters and followers nationwide. AWHC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. In addition to advocating for the protection and preservation of America's wild herds, AWHC implements the largest wild horse fertility control program in the world through a partnership with the State of Nevada for wild horses that live in the Virginia Range near Reno.