MOFFAT COUNTY, Colorado — Water is the solution and the problem for wild horses and Cindy Wright.
"It's gonna be hard. It's gonna be really, really hard," Wright said.
She co-founded the nonprofit Wild Horse Warriors for Sand Wash Basin with her sister, Aletha Dove.
"We have about 800 or 900 horses in the basin," Dove said. "They all look healthy. So, the basin itself has shown us that it can support more horses."
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) disagrees. It has issued the order for an emergency gather because it believes the drought has left the Sand Wash Basin with too little water.
In a statement released by the BLM, Deputy Director Nada Wolff Culver said, "As one of the agencies charged with the responsibility to protect and manage America’s wild horses and burros, the BLM is prepared to take emergency action where we can in order to save the lives of these cherished animals."
“At the same time, we are committed to continuing our efforts to reduce overpopulation across the West and achieve healthy, sustainable herd sizes that are more capable of withstanding severe conditions, including prolonged drought, which are becoming more frequent due to climate change."
Wright said the BLM will take around 700 horses in and adopt them out to the public to leave a more manageable number in the wild.
"The BLM truly, typically, does not water or feed wild horses because they are wild animals," Wright said.
The BLM states that the number of wild horses should fall between 163 to 360 in order to be sustainable.
"We're not ready to give up the fight and concede that's the number they're going to leave in the basin," Wright said.
Through their nonprofit, Wright and Dove have been trying to find ways to provide water to wild horses through wells and other means.
"Yes, it's terribly sad," Dove said. "We're heartbroken, but we're going to keep moving forward."
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Since 1971, the BLM has gathered more than 4,400 wild horses and burros in Colorado for the same reason. The emergency gather in the Sand Wash basin is scheduled to take place some time in September.
Not only will the gather have an impact on the horses themselves, Dove said this will be a big factor in local tourism.
"We have been totally shocked by the number of people that come to Craig, Moffat County just to see the horses," Dove said. "Moffat County needs tourism. Tourism is a big part of the basin and we’ve got to push forward to get the horse number up."
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