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Concerned Delta Co. resident, BLM on Sand Wash Basin wild horse gather

The gather is scheduled for Sep. 1
Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 9:18 PM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - A Delta Co. resident, Lee Phillips, is speaking out about her concerns over a planned gather of wild horses at the Sand Wash Basin in Moffat Co. The Bureau of Land Management is saying the situation there is an emergency and needs to be addressed. Both are saying they care deeply about these horses.

According to Phillips, “These are American icons. These are the horses that formed the West.” She has had a horse originally from the Sand Wash Basin heard for 25 years. The horse, named Big Girl, is part of why Phillips is speaking out now. Her main concern: the use of helicopters. “Flying a helicopter to gather these horses could be an absolute bloodbath. There are small foals out there less than a month old, and they’re going to run these horses across the basin and into holding pens. There’s other ways to do this, to draw the horses to the holding pen.”

The BLM is saying it is committed to sustaining horse populations and preserving the basin. According to agency spokesman Chris Maestas, “Years of overpopulation have devastated the range -- couple that with the extreme drought we have experienced for several years, it will take several growing seasons for the forage to grow and the range to heal.”

Phillips is saying she understands the need to gather a certain number of horses to help preserve the Basin environment, but argues that the methods of getting the horses and their treatment once captured needs to improve. Maestas explained that the agency “is committed to maintaining a healthy wild horse herd on healthy public lands. The Sand Wash Basin will continue to have a viable, healthy wild horse herd at a sustainable population level.”

Phillips shared her view that the agency does not understand the impact some of its actions can have on horse populations. The agency is saying its actions are necessary to protect other species in the basin as well.

Of the almost 900 horses in the area, the Bureau plans on gathering just under 800, then eventually releasing 50 back into the wild. The bulk of the horses gathered will be put up for adoption, according to the agency.

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