The wild horse holding facility in Rock Springs closed as the Bureau of Land Management waits for animals to acclimate to their new home at the facility. Bureau of Land Management via Rock Springs Rocket Miner/courtesy

CHEYENNE – A wild horse facility could be built in eastern Laramie County, but the project depends on a regulation change from the county commissioners.

The public hearing process for the rule change began Tuesday at the Laramie County Commission meeting. Over the next 45 days, the county will seek public comments at a series of meetings to help the commissioners make their decision.

“There should be lots of good comments in both directions,” Laramie County Planning and Development Director Brad Emmons said Tuesday.

The facility would hold wild horses captured by the Bureau of Land Management, and the BLM would pay South Dakota-based Equine Elite an amount per horse for each day they hold them.

Because of the number of horses that will be housed at the site, it is considered a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation.

Right now in Laramie County, any proposed CAFO is required to get approval from all neighbors within three miles of the proposed site. The county’s change in regulation would lower that distance to one mile.

Equine Elite initially asked the surrounding neighbors for approval, but due to concerns about water supply, air and water quality, and increased traffic, residents within the three-mile radius did not approve the project.

That’s when the company turned to Laramie County commissioners and proposed a regulation modification.

In Wyoming, the state statute only requires CAFOs to get approval from neighbors in a one-mile radius. The regulation in Laramie County was previously changed when a swine CAFO was proposed, but Equine Elite representatives want to revert the regulation back to match state statute.

“There’s rules, but if you don’t like how the rules work, you petition the government and have a public hearing,” Emmons said. “It’s why democracy is set up the way it is – you have that option to ask and see if the rules are right or not.”

If the change goes through, Ron Butler, who owns a property close to the site, said he could be more than a mile away, depending on where Equine Elite builds the corrals. He said if they are put on a certain part of the property, the company wouldn’t need any approval from neighbors.

The public hearings will be held at the Laramie County Planning Commission meeting at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 23 and at the County Commission meeting at the same time Feb. 4 in the Historic County Courthouse, 310 W. 19th St.

This facility would consist of an off-range corral, where wild horses receive vaccinations and are transitioned to domestic life.

According to Jason Lutterman, public affairs specialist for the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program, the horses would stay at the site for a year or two before being adopted or transferred to an off-range pasture facility with more room.

While the BLM does run a couple of public facilities, Lutterman said the BLM trend is shifting toward using private companies like Equine Elite to run the facilities.

“A private facility is much easier to acquire in a shorter period of time,” Lutterman said.

When BLM detects a need for a new facility, they outline the need and solicit proposals from various private companies.

When ranking the proposed plans, Lutterman said the question the BLM asks is, “What meets the government needs the best?”

Several months ago, the BLM asked for proposals in this region. Whether the site will be in Laramie County depends on the commissioners’ decision on the county regulation.

Margaret Austin is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. She can be reached at maustin@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3152. Follow her on Twitter @MargaretMAustin.

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