RANGELY, Colo. (CBS4) – With drought conditions the worst in years, the Bureau of Land Management is having trouble taking care of a herd of wild horses in Western Colorado and part of the reason is because of a court case in Washington D.C.
A non-profit, wild horse advocacy group called The Cloud Foundation filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management several years ago. The Cloud Foundation, which is based in Colorado Springs, claims the Federal government is trying to deplete a herd in the West Douglas Herd Area, south of Rangely, so it will no longer be responsible for maintaining the horses. The BLM admits the horses are a burden to care for.
“These horses, this is their territory. And they’re staying here, that’s why we’re supplementing them with water,” said wild horse and burro Specialist Jerome Fox.
“BLM has never designated them as a herd they want to manage even though they’re historically significant,” said Ginger Kathrens, the executive director of The Cloud Foundation.
There are about 150 horses in the West Douglas Herd Area, which encircles Texas Mountain. Within that group, the BLM says there are about 40 horses that won’t leave a valley that has gone dry.
“The horses have adapted to the upper trough but they haven’t moved up from lower in the canyon,” Fox said. “So today’s operation is to get the horses lower in the canyon water.”
The BLM is spending thousands of dollars to supplement water for the horses so they don’t die, but the advocacy group says it’s unnecessary.
“These horses know where every little water source is,” Kathrens says. “They look in fabulous condition.”
Since 1971, Congress mandated BLM to take care of wild horses across the country. The herd in question inside the West Douglas Herd Area is not normally managed and allowed to be free, but because of a lack of water, the BLM is trucking in 500 gallons of water a day.
The Cloud Foundation maintains there’s not a water shortage, and believes the horses are healthy and know where other water sources are.
The BLM has requested an emergency advisement in the lawsuit allowing the agency to perform a gather to save the horses it feels are in danger. The Cloud Foundation says it has sent out members to observe the same herd and feel the horses are not only healthy, but this is just a ploy by the government to remove the horses and eliminate the burden of maintaining them.
Neither side could tell CBS4 when a decision in the case will be heard.
– Written by CBS4 Reporter Jeff Todd