BLM Statement on Sand Wash Basin HMA wild horse gather

An emergency gather began today of the Sand Wash Basin wild horse population. This population is profoundly impacted by the ongoing drought, which endangers the survival of horses in this area. In addition, the BLM’s analysis, which is underpinned by the best available science, shows that the Sand Wash Basin wild horse population is well above the size that can be sustained in the area. This has led to unacceptable negative impacts on wildlife and the health of public lands.  

For example, in Northwest Colorado, Greater sage-grouse numbers rose approximately 10 percent last year. In the Sand Wash Basin, where nearly 60 percent of the Sand Wash Basin herd management area is sage-grouse priority habitat, sage-grouse numbers fell by 26%. Over grazing by wild horses in Sand Wash is having a direct impact on sage-grouse and other wildlife.

We are also aware that ranchers who have grazing permits in Sand Wash have reduced grazing due to the lack of available forage, such that grazing has been reduced by 46% to 86% in Sand Wash this year.

Across the west, the BLM is actively using a combined strategy of gathers, fertility control treatment, and private care in good homes in response to drought and overpopulation. The BLM is committed to using effective, humane fertility control measures everywhere it is practical to do so. Our goal is to replicate locally supported wild horse herds at sustainable levels, like we have in the Little Book Cliffs and Spring Creek areas. When horse herds are at the appropriate management level mandated by federal law and regulation, the use of fertility treatments can manage the population at a sustainable level, alleviating the need for large gathers.

The BLM works closely with a local wild horse group on the gather in Sand Wash Basin. Those members of the public will help BLM determine which captured wild horses should be returned to the range. The BLM uses a comprehensive animal welfare program in partnership with other wild horse groups to ensure captured horses are well cared for and can be placed in good homes. The BLM ensures the care of adopted animals through compliance inspections and formal agreements with qualified adopters. Adopters and members of the public may contact their local BLM office or the National Information Center for more information how to help.