Cross-posted from Salt Lake Tribune
by BRIAN MAFFLY
The federal Bureau of Land Management will likely clear most if not all the wild horses from a West Desert block of state land in July as part of a newly approved plan to remove 200 wild horses from Utah rangelands this year.
The Interior Department this week greenlighted Utah BLM’s request to gather these horses in the face of mounting pressure from state and local officials concerned that overpopulation of wild horses is damaging a parched range and could force ranchers to reduce cattle grazing levels.
“It’s a bittersweet thing to me,” said Beaver County Commissioner Mark Whitney. “Juan [Palma, BLM’s state director] means well, but it’s only a drop in the bucket in what needs to be done in the West Desert because they’ve let the problem get so out of control, especially in drought conditions.”
BLM’s plan calls for rounding up 140 horses on the Blawn Wash herd area that overlies 26,000 acres overseen by the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) west of Milford.
Blawn Wash has been a source of tension for state trust lands managers who amassed this block of rangelands several years ago with the expectation that horses would no longer be allowed to graze them, according to Kim Christy, SITLA’s associate director.
“This goes beyond revenue generation. This is a severe resource degradation issue that’s attributable to overstocking of horses,” Kristy said.
SITLA’s Blawn Wash holdings cover 2,000 animal-unit months, or AUMs — the amount of forage that support a cow-calf pair for one month.
“For the three grazing permittees, it’s vital for their survival,” Kristy said. Read more >>
In our opinion, Kristy should be removed from her position and assigned elsewhere if she believes that free roaming wild horses cause “resources degradation”. Cattle do this, not horses. We have reported numerous instances here on Tuesday’s Horse where wild horses have been re-introduced to restore the lands.
You can easily make the argument that leaving wild horses where they are is good for the land and would actually benefit cattle. Not that we have anything against the cattle, but who wants to benefit federal welfare ranchers any more than they already are?
We are recommending to Congress that monies budgeted for public lands ranching by the federal government be de-funded and put the burden on individual States for this expense. And we are already generating interest in Washington.