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BLM Wyoming provides update at Joint Ag meeting

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

The Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee held a meeting at Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs on June 10-11. 

On the first day, Wyoming Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Andrew Archuleta and Deputy State Director Brad Purdy provided an update on the Rock Springs and Buffalo resource management plans (RMP), sale of land to PacifiCorp and wild horse management. 

Statewide RMPs

“To go back a little bit, the Rock Spring RMP was initially brought up in 2011, and the purpose was to replace the 1997 Green River RMP,” Archuleta explained. 

“We released the document in 2023, and the public comment period ended on Jan. 17. We held public meetings and worked with the Wyoming Governor’s Task Force to address the proposed management decisions and to gather large concerns, which we will address as we work through the final proposal,” he added. 

Archuleta noted the BLM received over 35,000 comments on the RMP and is currently in the process of responding to them all. 

“We are committed to addressing all of those comments, and you will see them directly addressed through the new alternative,” he stated. 

Archuleta further noted BLM is looking at releasing a final RMP around the end of July or in early August. A 30-day appeal period and 60-day governor’s consistency review will follow its release, and the official rule will come out sometime around November. 

“Wyoming is losing faith,” commented Sen. Bob Ide (SD-29). “Nobody believes anybody is really listening back in Washington, D.C. They have their agenda and priorities, which are not the same as Wyoming’s priorities.” 

Archuleta responded, “I can tell you, your voices are being heard. Me and my staff are doing our best to deliver the message from Wyoming, as well as local and state governments upwards. You will see in the Rock Springs RMP that those comments have been heard and addressed.”

Sen. Cheri Steinmetz (SD-03) asked how policy would change in the case of a new administration following the 2024 election. 

Archuleta explained it depends on where at in the process a project is but amendments can be made if a new administration so desires, which can alter the decision in any manner. 

PacifiCorp sale 

Next, Archuleta noted Wyoming BLM is working on a noncompetitive direct sale of 307.5 acres of public land in Sweetwater County to PacifiCorp.

He mentioned the notice of realty action was published in the April 18 Federal Register, and the sale would allow PacifiCorp to gain ownership of property adjacent to the Jim Bridger Power Plant. The sale will be finalized over the course of the next few months.

Additionally, Archuleta explained the property will still be subject to BLM regulations and provisions in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. 

Following a question from the committee regarding what PacifiCorp plans to use the ground for, Purdy stated, “PacifiCorp has been purchasing some parcels over time, so there have been multiple purchases in this area. I think PacifiCorp was already using the land for transmission lines and rights of way, they just found it would be easier to purchase the parcels from the BLM, which have been identified in the RMP as available for disposal as long as PacifiCorp was willing to pay fair market price, which they were.”

Purdy believes the property will continue to be used for company transmission lines or rights of way. 

Wild horse management 

Lastly, Archuleta provided an update on the hot button topic of wild horse management, noting the nationwide population currently sits at around 73,500 animals with 65,000 in off-range corrals, while the state of Wyoming is home to nearly 9,500 wild horses, 2,200 of which are being cared for in BLM facilities. 

Last year, BLM placed over 8,000 horses through adoption, sales and transfers nationwide.

“We are really trying to beef this up,” Archuleta stated. “The largest number of horses BLM has ever removed off of the range in one year was 20,000 horses, which is our goal for this year and next. It is a lofty goal and an expensive one because if we are going to remove 20,000 horses off of the range, we need to be able to place 20,000 horses.” 

With this, Ide raised the concern of how much taxpayer money it costs to care for gathered horses. Purdy noted, according to BLM figures, it costs an average of $22,500 per animal, if they remain with the BLM for their entire life. 

Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) Executive Vice President Jim Magagna added, “In 2023, the cost to taxpayers was $108.5 million. As we continue to gather horses and adoptions don’t keep up, this figure is going to rise annually, but it is not just added cost to taxpayers, it tends to come out of the overall horse budget so the more that goes into caring for horses in captivity, the less that goes into gathers, which seems to be a dilemma.”

With this, Archuleta noted BLM has two gathers scheduled in Wyoming in 2024 – one north of Lander in July and one at the White Mountain Herd Management Area (HMA) in the fall. The agency also completed a bait gather at the McCullough Peaks HMA near Cody, where they removed about 42 horses. 

Magagna voiced he doesn’t believe adoptions will solve the problem, but does agree something needs to be done to increase adoptions. 

“I am fascinated by an analysis done by the Property and Environment Research Center, and one of their recommendations is to increase the payout to an individual who adopts a horse from $1,000 to as much as $3,000 a year for three years,” he said.

Additionally, Magagna encouraged the BLM and Joint Ag Committee to consider legislation to provide compensation to private and state trust landowners for loss of forage consumption caused by wild horses and burros. 

“We keep coming back to the Wild Horse and Burro Act, which provides if horses get on to private lands – state trust lands fall within this category – and if the landowner requests removal of those horses, the BLM should do so,” he said. 

“But, to date, the only way this has had any success in Southwest Wyoming is through litigation – not because BLM doesn’t follow the law, but because they don’t have the resources to do so,” he added. 

Magagna continued, “From the perspective of a private landowner, I see value in a law stating horses should be removed, and if they cannot be removed, they should be entitled to some compensation until their removal.”

Sen. Larry Hicks (SD-11) agreed and proposed, if nothing else, for the BLM to consider documenting forage lost to producers and the state of Wyoming. 

“It seems to me, in those cases, the state should bill the BLM for animal unit months, no different than in the reverse situation,” Hicks said. “I know it would be nothing more than an exercise, but it is an accrued exercise which documents the economic impact associated to the state and those permittees. And, quite frankly, I think it is something we ought to look at.” 

Magagna noted WSGA would be in support of this initiative.

To wrap up the converation, Sen. Dan Laursen (SD-19) asked Archuleta what BLM is doing regarding reproductive control.

“We have a pretty active reproductive control program depending on the herd and HMA,” Archuleta explained. “In areas where we are near the appropriate management levels (AML), we can use reproductive control to maintain them, but it isn’t as successful in HMAs far above the AML.” 

Check out next week’s Wyoming Livestock Roundup for updates from the second day of the Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee meeting.

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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