The Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service are set to begin as soon as Sunday a helicopter roundup of 250 wild horses in and around the North Hills Joint Management Area northwest of Enterprise, Utah.
As part of an updated plan for the 74,000-acre Joint Management Area, the agencies kept their “Appropriate Management Level” of 40-60 wild horses – as low as one horse for every 1,850 acres — with a breeding population of 30-50 managed with fertility control.
The current estimated population of wild horses is 317.
BLM blames wild horses for degraded rangeland health and damage to riparian areas and says that drought has reduced forage and water availability to “near emergency” levels. It also says that “excess” wild horses are “competing heavily” with elk, mule deer and pronghorn for forage and water.
The updated Herd Management Area Plan calls for: regular removals over the next decade to keep the herd near the low end the population target, monitoring the herd’s genetic health through testing, and the introduction of 1-3 studs or mares from other Herd Management Areas to maintain genetic diversity, as well as water and vegetative projects to improve habitat.
The USFS manages 24,006 acres of the Joint Management Area and the BLM 50,127 acres, with another 10,511 acres made up of state and private lands.
While USFS Service allows no livestock grazing on its portion, BLM estimates that about 1,766 cattle Animal Unit Months and 201 sheep AUMs are used on five allotments that overlap its portion (one AUM is defined as a month’s worth of forage for one cow-calf pair, one horse or five sheep).
Captured wild horses be transported to the Axtell, Utah, Off-Range Contract Wild Horse Facility.
Viewing the roundup
Members of the public that wish to view the roundup should meet at Maverik Adventure’s First Stop gas station located at 220 North Airport Rd in Cedar City, Utah. Trips to viewing areas will leave at 5:30 a.m. MT.