Cody area highway could be named for wild horses

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Getting from Cody to Greybull may soon mean taking a trip along the “Wild Horse Highway.”

Supporters of the McCullough Peaks wild horse herd are lobbying the Wyoming Legislature to name part of U.S. Highway 14/16/20 outside Cody after the equines, which roam along the route.

The name change would bring more awareness to the horses and boost tourism, said Mary Scuffham. She’s the president of the Friends of a Legacy (FOAL) group that advocates for the herd.

Although folks from as far off as Austria have come to check out the animals, “I think that there are probably some folks that don’t realize that there’s a wild horse herd out there,” Scuffham told Park County commissioners last week. “They [the horses] don’t always make themselves known along the highway.”

On Friday, state Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, introduced a bill to officially create the Wild Horse Highway. The designation would run roughly 30 miles — from Cody city limits to U.S. 14/16/20’s intersection with Wyo. Highway 32, outside of Emblem.

State Reps. David Northrup, R-Powell, Sandy Newsome, R-Cody, and John Winter, R-Thermopolis, are cosponsoring the legislation, known as Senate File 112.

As for its odds of clearing the full Legislature, “I think it’s got [a] fairly decent chance,” Coe said.

Park County commissioners unanimously endorsed the proposal at their Jan. 15 meeting, drawing cheers and applause from FOAL representatives.

A letter of support from the commission says the Wild Horse Highway designation will “encourage travelers to pause and admire the vast, open terrain and badlands of the Big Horn Basin” and spotlight “the unique treasure of the wild horse.”

“I think it’s a well-kept secret,” Park County Commission Chairman Jake Fulkerson said of the McCullough Peaks herd. “I don’t know how many times I’ve stopped, depending on how far they are off the road.”

The commissioners’ letter says the new name would also strengthen U.S. Highway 14/16/20’s appeal “as the preferred access to Yellowstone National Park.”

Since the route crosses into eastern Big Horn County, FOAL leaders plan to seek an endorsement from commissioners there, as well.

Scuffham said the group feels the Wild Horse Highway would fit well alongside the other named routes in the region — including the Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway (U.S. 14/16/20 west of Cody), the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway (Wyo. Highway 296 north of Cody), the Beartooth All-American Road (U.S. 212 along the Wyoming-Montana border) and the Wyoming Veterans Memorial Highway (U.S. 14-A between Powell and Cody), which the Legislature unanimously named in 2011.

FOAL leaders originally wanted to name the stretch of U.S. 14/16/20 as the “Wild Horse Scenic Highway,” Scuffham said, but changed course after learning about the additional work and time it takes to officially declare a route to be scenic.

“We didn’t feel that that one word was worth trying to get it passed through” the Wyoming Department of Transportation, she said.

Before voting to endorse the new name for the highway, Commissioners Lee Livingston and Joe Tilden made a point of saying that they disagree with the way the Bureau of Land Management has managed wild horse herds across the country; Tilden and Livingston said they feel herds have been allowed to grow too large for the habitat they occupy.

However, the commissioners praised FOAL for their efforts with the local herd — including helping the BLM administer birth control vaccines to keep the herd at a sustainable size.

“I wish more people would look at what you folks have tried to do and understand the problems we have out there and try to be proactive in your approach to it,” Tilden told FOAL leaders.

SF 112 has been assigned to the Senate’s Travel, Recreation, Wildlife & Cultural Resources Committee.

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