BLM investing in healthy wild horse herds and wildlife habitat in Sand Wash Basin
Written by Doug Vilsack, BLM Colorado State Director
Sand Wash Basin is one of Colorado’s special places, with its majestic wild horses, wide-open range, and important wildlife habitat. However, this 158,000-acre landscape is out-of-balance due to increasing horse populations and persistent drought. To set Sand Wash Basin on a sustainable path, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is investing the funding necessary to benefit wild horses, wildlife species such as greater sage-grouse, and public land users.
While over half of Sand Wash Basin is classified as priority habitat for greater sage-grouse, their numbers are lower in areas with wild horses than in adjacent areas. A large gather of horses in 2021 brought the Sand Wash Basin horse population back within the appropriate management level (AML) of 163 to 363 horses, reducing impacts on wildlife habitat. But horse populations have climbed above this carrying capacity once again.
Additional BLM funding will be used to develop fixed trap stations to gather enough wild horses this year to get us back on track, and to consistently gather smaller numbers of horses as necessary to maintain AML. These beautiful horses will be adopted through events organized with local partners. In addition, the BLM will work to increase the use of fertility control darting in Sand Wash Basin to limit the growth of horse populations while working to maintain the genetic diversity of this world-renowned herd. Finally, we will invest in range health and monitoring efforts to benefit a landscape under stress due to drought exacerbated by climate change.
Success will not be achieved alone, so BLM’s new investment will support local partners to implement fertility control, build and maintain fences, document range conditions, and construct and repair water storage systems. Beyond Sand Wash Basin, we hope that this momentum will spur the state, wildlife organizations, and wild horse advocates to partner with us to maintain thriving and sustainable wild horse herds in all of our herd management and wild horse areas.
BLM Colorado is committed to managing healthy herds on healthy public lands. By stabilizing wild horse populations and focusing on the health of the entire landscape, this investment will help the BLM and our partners restore Sand Wash Basin for the public, for wild horses, and for greater sage-grouse and other wildlife species.