Wyoming Rep. John Winter, R-Thermopolis, has asked the Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee to study the issue of wild horse management before next year’s legislative session.
He made the suggestion during the committee’s interim topics meeting earlier this year, briefly describing the negative impacts the growing populations of wild horses have on Wyoming rangelands.
“(It’s) about to get to the point where the range out there isn’t going to be worth anything,” Winter forecast. “The wild horses are just inundating the whole range. …
“We need to do something drastic at this point, to get the attention of our federal land management agencies (and) Congress.”
During this year’s legislative session, Winter sponsored a joint resolution asking Congress to allow for equine slaughter and processing in the United States.
The resolution didn’t pass, but it touched on what Winter called the “real” problem with wild horse management in Wyoming: that there is “no place to send these horses.”
“The federal government will not provide inspectors at these slaughterhouses, (and) it’s my understanding that the slaughterhouses in Canada have closed,” he said, adding that the “adopt-a-horse program is not working very well anymore” either because “people have got all the horses they can stand.”
“We’re in a bad situation,” Winter said. “This is something we really need to get serious about.”
Wyoming Rep. John Eklund, R-Cheyenne, said “there has been talk” about potentially setting up a slaughterhouse on the Wind River Reservation and funding a new state employee who would be responsible for inspecting the facility.
“We haven’t delved into that very deeply, (but) they would be interested in doing it,” he said, referring to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes, which aren’t subject to federal wild horse management laws. “I think that might be part of what we work on as a solution and maybe legislation.”
Other strategies could involve “legal action,” or some kind of collaboration with the University of Wyoming, Winter said, proposing that the committee begin its interim study by taking a tour of some rangeland areas in the state.
“This winter is going to show just how bad it is, especially on (the) reservation,” he predicted. “We’ve had lots of snow, and the forage has not been good, and we’re going to see the results of that, I’m sure, (in) areas where these horses frequent.”
The committee’s next meeting is scheduled to take place June 5-6 in Torrington.