Salt Lake City photographer Rick Bowmer and reporter Lindsay Whitehurst, both based in Salt Lake City, and Denver reporter James Anderson collaborated on an evocative, in-depth examination of the U.S. government’s roundups of wild horses on the arid plains of the American West. The roundups have expanded during this year’s megadrought. Federal land managers say they are increasing the number of horses removed from the range to protect the parched land and the animals themselves, but wild-horse advocates accuse the government of using the conditions as an excuse to move out the iconic animals to preserve cattle grazing.

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Photographer Rick Bowmer covers wild horses near the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, July 2021.

AP / Lindsay Whitehurst

Bowmer and Whitehurst attended a July roundup on the plains west of Salt Lake City and watched from a mountaintop perch as about 300 horses were corralled to be adopted or kept in captivity. Bowmer’s striking images include helicopters swooping low to corral the horses as the mustangs gallop away, and horses gathered around watering holes against a mountain landscape. Whitehurst and Anderson weaved color into the story, describing the horses’ high-pitched whinnies rising into the dry air, while explaining how the summer roundups have escalated tensions between government officials and the horse advocates.

The package was used by countless members in the West and elsewhere in the country.

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Wild horses gather around a pond at Simpson Springs near U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, July 14, 2021.

AP Photo / Rick Bowmer