SOUTHERN UTAH – The Bureau of Land Management has released an environmental assessment for public comment pertaining to a wild horse gather in Southern Utah.
In the Wild and Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, it was ordered to: “…manage wild free-roaming horses and burros in a manner that is designed to achieve and maintain a thriving natural ecological balance on the public lands”.
Currently the level of wild horse on BLM managed land in Iron County surpasses what the BLM calls “Appropriate Management Level” – that is, “the number of wild horses and burros which can graze without causing damage to the range.”
The fiscal year 2015 budget for the BLM calls for an increase of $2.8 million for the wild horse and burro program nationwide.
According to a press release, this would allow the BLM to continue multi-year studies focused on the development of more effective and longer-lasting fertility control agents and techniques.
In late March, Iron County Commission sent a letter to the BLM regarding the wild horse population issue that the area is facing.
The letter was written when Iron County Commission felt the BLM had its priorities screwed in regards to spending money to gather Nevada rancher, Cliven Bundy’s cattle. The letter stated:
The decision of the BLM to allocate funding approaching or surpassing $2 million dollars to gather private cattle owned in Clark County Nevada while the agency refuses to respond to the requests by Iron County to abide by its own laws and policies … is unacceptable. Why do you have money to deal with non-compliance as in the case of Mr. Cliven Bundy, but no funds to keep yourself in compliance?
Although the BLM is taking action, the environmental assessment is not a direct response to the letter, but they are aware of the issue, Megan Crandall, Utah BLM spokesperson said.
“It acknowledges that we do have wild horse populations that need adjustment” Crandall said. “If we get to the point that the environmental assessment is signed and there’s a decision record, that gives us the ability to act quickly when we receive approval to begin making some of those adjustments.”
If approved, the plan will consist of wild horse gather, removal and fertility treatment in the Bible Spring Complex area over a 10-year period.
The four Herd Management Areas that make up the Bible Spring Complex — Bible Spring, Blawn Wash, Tilly Creek and Four Mile — are located in western Iron and Beaver counties, covering approximately 222,929 acres of public, private and state lands.
The environmental assessment states: “The purpose of the proposed Bible Springs Complex Gather, Removal and Fertility Treatment Plan is to achieve a thriving natural ecological balance, achieve and maintain wild horse AML, collect information on herd characteristics, determine herd health, maintain sustainable rangelands, and maintain a healthy wild horse population within the Bible Springs Complex.”
The environmental assessment is a good start to resolving the problem, said Lisa Reid public affairs specialist for the BLM.
“What it will do is allow us opportunity to get started on this and start working towards a solution,” Reid said.
David Miller, Iron County Commissioner, agrees that the environmental assessment is a step in the right direction, but says it is not enough.
“I don’t think it’s going to really solve it yet,” Miller said. “They want to do this over 10 years according to the (Environmental Assessment) and that’s not going to cut it.”
The Iron County Commission will be taking action through the Utah Association of Counties by filing a lawsuit against the BLM.
“We’ve got a lawsuit that the counties are going to participate in,” Miller said, “and the reason why it’s a statewide thing is because (the BLM is) breaking the federal law.”
The Iron County Commission has begun working with the BLM in a small gather. Eight horses were gathered Tuesday.
Although the proposed Environmental Assessment addresses the issue, the process needs to be quicker than 10 years, Miller said.
- Letter to the Editor: The spirit of the West; range war
- Letter to the Editor: Bundy forfeited right to graze cattle; counter opinion, range war
- ON Kilter: Bundy’s victim mentality costs him grazing rights
- Range war: County resolves to solve wild horse problem if BLM prioritizes Bundy cattle – Iron County
- Range war: BLM, Iron County to work together on feral horse issue – Iron County
- Range war: County Commissioners oppose BLM bringing Bundy cattle to Utah – Washington County
- Range war: Rancher stands defiant as BLM moves to impound ‘trespass cattle’
- Perspectives: The Bundys vs the bureaucracy
- ON Kilter: Trespass cattleman not above the law
- BLM, National Park Service close public lands due to trespassing cattle dispute
- ‘Where’s the line?’ Ivory’s crusade to return public lands to the states
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