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BLM halts horse gather on basin land, continues in adjacent areas

Horse gathering operations will continue outside the Herd Management Area on private and public lands.

MOFFAT COUNTY, Colo. — The protested helicopter roundup of wild horses in the Sand Wash Basin in Moffat County by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has ended, but continues on adjacent public and private property.

Horse gathering operations will continue outside the Herd Management Area (HMA) on private and public lands in an attempt to gather small, scattered bands of horses known to reside outside the HMA, according to the BLM.

The operation intends to capture more than 100 horses over the next few days.

The BLM cited drought, scorched habitat from wildfires and overpopulation as justification for the roundup, which was done by helicopter. 

However, advocates for the herd claim recent monsoons have restored the watering holes, and that the land can support far more than the BLM's target of 163 horses. They also claimed BLM was clearing out the herd to make more room for sheep and cattle grazing, and that using helicopters was inhumane and could result in injuries and even deaths in the herd.

Horse gather operations in the Sand Wash Basin Herd Management Area (HMA) have concluded as of September 8. Horse...

Posted by Bureau of Land Management - Colorado on Thursday, September 9, 2021

On Aug. 30, Gov. Jared Polis joined calls from the public and animal advocates to end the helicopter roundups. He commented Thursday on the BLM's decision to end the gather: 

“The positive announcement today that the Sand Wash Basin wild horse roundups would end early show how federal and state governments can potentially work together. While I wish this roundup hadn’t even started, I’m encouraged by the opportunity to chart a more humane course for our state’s beloved wild horses. The outpouring we heard shows how much people care for the wellbeing of these iconic Colorado animals, and our administration can play a key role in engaging people who can work together to ensure the health and wellbeing of Colorado’s wild horses for generations to come.”

Rep. Joe Neguse also wrote a letter to the BLM asking them to end the operation. 

As of Tuesday, Sept. 7, the BLM reported 501 horses were rounded up since Sept. 1 and were being prepared for adoption. The BLM intended to capture 783 horses out of the 828, returning 25 mares and 25 stallions to the herd, to keep it at 163. That's despite BLM's own estimate that the habitat could support 362 horses.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article previously stated that the horse roundup was completely finished. However, the roundup still continues on private and public land adjacent to the basin.

RELATED: Helicopters drive wild horses into traps in northwest Colorado

RELATED: Wild horse roundup continues in Moffat County, horses injured, advocates say

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