The McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Herd & HMA
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The Legendary wild horses of the McCullough Peaks
Kim Zierlein | Written 3. 15.2022
Federal protection of mustangs came with the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, which was signed into law in 1971. This act specifically allows for the protection and management of “unbranded and unclaimed horses and burros on public lands in the United States.” As a result, Herd Management Areas (HMA) were established for the preservation of this beautiful icon of America’s heritage.
East of Cody, Wyoming, wild horses roam on over 120,000 acres of public land between US 14-16-20 (“Wild Horse Highway”), US 14A, and WY 32. The area was established as the McCullough Peaks HMA and is managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Concerned about the status of the McCullough Peaks wild horses amid increasing and competing uses for public land, some local citizens formed Friends of a Legacy (FOAL) in April 2005. This nonprofit (501c3) organization and its board of directors advocate for the McCullough Peaks herd and its sustainability.
FOAL supports the BLM’s fertility control program with a goal to balance herd growth with natural attrition, to mitigate the need for physically and socially disruptive roundups and gathers.
FOAL actively participates in a BLM working group formed in 2021. The group consists of FOAL representatives, BLM staff, and ranchers with grazing permits in the HMA. Cooperatively, these stakeholders collaborate on how to best utilize, conserve and preserve the habitat while maintaining public access and multiple use.
To ensure the sustainability of the forage and water for the mustangs, FOAL initiated a 10-year project called the “Living Waters Initiative,” with the goal of helping to rebuild and restore reservoirs throughout the HMA. This will result in better grazing distribution, habitat health, precipitation capture, and water utilization by all the flora and fauna that call the McCullough Peaks home.
All of these working relationships, projects, and initiatives have come together in one common goal -- to preserve the legacy of the West and the spirit of the wild horses that roam free in the McCullough Peaks.