The Bureau of Land Management has announced plans to go forward with a roundup of about 80 percent of the wild horses from the beloved herd at the Onaqui Mountain Herd Management Area in Utah.
BLM estimates that the population of the herd will be at about 586 wild horses by the time the roundup begins at an as yet unannounced date in 2019. It plans to capture and remove about 465 wild horses.
The agency had planned to begin a roundup in fall of 2018, but it instead decided to focus resources on what it said were drought-related emergency roundups
The agency’s stated reasons for the planned Onaqui removal included compliance with the Utah Greater Sage-Grouse Approved Resource Management Plan Amendment and restoration of land affected by wildfire.
The BLM-set “Appropriate Management Level” for the 205,394-acre Onaqui Mountain HMA is 121-210 wild horses — as low as one horse for every 1,697 acres.
Livestock grazing on the HMA is allocated for 19,235 Animal Unit Months (one AUM is defined as a month’s worth of forage for one cow-calf pair, one horse or five sheep).
The planned removal has frustrated wild horse advocates because BLM had been darting Onaqui mares with fertility control rather than rounding up and removing wild horses — a key component of a move away from the practice of capturing and warehousing wild horses.
The Onaqui Mountain wild horses have long been a favorite of photographers, partly due to their home range’s location about 40 miles from Salt Lake City.