BLM seeks comment on its plan to reduce wild horse population on Confusion HMA (Utah)

/ In The News, News, Roundups
A contractor’s helicopter drives wild horses into the trap during a 2016 roundup at the Cedar Mountain Herd Management Area in Utah. RTF file photo by Steve Paige.

The Bureau of Land Management is seeking public comment on a draft Environmental Assessment for a plan that will likely include the capture and removal of at least 481 wild horses from the Confusion Herd Management Area, located in Juab and Millard Counties in Utah.

The BLM says that removing wild horses is needed to improve rangeland health, among other reasons. 

The 235,005-acre HMA, about 30 miles north of Garrison, Utah, is home to a BLM-estimated 551 wild horses. The agency-set population target, or Appropriate Management Level, is 70-115 wild horses, or as low as one horse for every 3,357 acres.

By comparison, the BLM has allocated 25,312 Animal Unit Months of forage annually to 11 livestock operators who graze cattle and sheep seasonally on the HMA (an AUM is the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow-calf pair, one horse or five sheep for a month). 

The BLM is considering alternatives that include removing wild horses down to 70, then either doing nothing else to control population growth or doing so and then: using sex-ratio skewing (releasing a 60-40% of males to females); implementing fertility control vaccines and intra-uterine devices (IUDs); or surgically sterilizing some mares and stallions.

As a way to humanely manage wild horses on the range and phase out roundups, RTF supports of safe, proven, humane fertility control vaccines, like PZP, which we have used with a 91-98% efficacy rate at our sanctuary and which has enjoyed similar success in other projects.

RTF strongly opposes the surgical sterilization of wild mares. Such surgeries are dangerous, costly and unproven. While less dangerous, gelding stallions is nonetheless problematic. Read more here. 

RTF opposes the use of IUDs based on past studies. RTF remains opposed to their use until they are shown to be safe, humane and effective. 

We do not advise sex-ratio skewing for wild horses because the management of populations via sex skewing is temporary (populations return to their normal ratios) and healthy populations rely on whatever the norms are in terms of that population’s demographics. Adjusting a population of wild horses to skew for more or less of anything does not attain a natural state for that population, with behavior ramifications that are not yet understood (potential heightened aggression in stallions, for example).

Click to read the draft Environmental Assessment. 

Submitting a comment: BLM is accepting written comments until July 27. To submit a comment online, click here and then choose the green “participate” button. To comment by mail, send a letter to BLM Fillmore Field Office, Attn: Trent Staheli, 95 East 500 North, Fillmore, UT 84631.

Send a message to your members of Congress urging them to press BLM on the implementation of safe, proven and humane fertility control.

Sign our petition telling Congress to analyze all public land use impacts, allocate an equitable share to wild horses and burros.