Wild Horse Roundups in the Piceance Basin
Days before wild horse roundups began, we flew horse advocates, conservationists, water experts, and ecologists over the Piceance East Douglas Herd to examine herd size, spread, and the supposed degradation to the landscape.
Wild horse roundups in the Piceance Basin began July 15th, 2022, despite strong opposition from ecologists, biologists, wild horse advocates, and public officials like Governor Polis.
Under federal law, in public lands wild free-roaming horses and burros are protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death. Congress has declared that wild horses are symbols of the historic pioneer spirit of the West and enrich the lives of the American people. Despite this, the BLM began horse roundups in the Piceance East Douglas Herd Management Area to alleviate pressures on lands the BLM claims are overburdened by wild horses. The BLM intends to decrease the herd by 750 horses, leaving around 630. Our overflight of the Piceance Basin examined the sagebrush landscape and the Piceance-East Douglas Herd prior to the roundup. The aggressive form of capture utilizes helicopters and takes place during foaling season and hot weather conditions, often projected to reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Many mustang groups, ecologists, and others are worried about the effects of helicopter roundups on pregnant mares and young foaling during these hot conditions. The roundup is projected to take about a month. The horses captured will be transferred to a holding facility in Utah.
The BLM claims the sagebrush landscape cannot support the current herd size of about 1,385, stating the horses have overgrazed the grasses and are in danger of starvation. However, mustang groups and ecologists, having completed on-ground field surveys, report the East Douglas herd is healthy and has sufficient food sources.
The roundup has caused outcry from wild horse advocates and has seen little ecological backing to justify the BLM's actions.