By Kristen Moulton, The Salt Lake Tribune
The Bureau of Land Management on Monday removed eight wild horses from private land northwest of Cedar City, an Iron County commissioner said Tuesday.
"We’re pleased with anything, but it’s a drop in the bucket," said Commission Chairman David Miller.
Iron and Beaver counties have been pressing the BLM to round up horses because there are far more than the agency’s own prescribed limits. According to May 1 numbers, the BLM estimates it has nearly 1,700 wild horses in western Iron and Beaver counties, an area where there are supposed to be just more than 600.
Ranchers say the horses are competing with cattle for feed and water, and the counties are threatening roundups this summer if the BLM doesn’t act.
To provide emergency relief in early April, the BLM set up corrals around a water trough on private land, but as of a week ago, not a single horse had been captured.
The BLM wanted to set up four more such "traps," Miller said, and he wasn’t sure Tuesday whether the eight were captured in the original trap or a new one.
BLM-Utah spokeswoman Megan Crandall confirmed that the agency’s wild horse and burro specialists had "gathered and transported" eight wild horses that had strayed into a corral on private land.
The horses were all in good condition, and eventually will be put up for adoption, she said in a written statement. They’re being kept at the BLM corrals in Cedar City.
"Eight horses is so insignificant," Miller said, "that it will not satisfy the concerns we all have."
Meanwhile, wild-horse advocates issued a statement saying the BLM was caving into pressure from ranchers when the majority of Americans favor the horses over cattle on public lands.
The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign also questioned the BLM’s latest numbers of horses on the Bible Spring Complex, saying it would be "biologically impossible," given the BLM’s 2013 estimates.
"We call on the BLM and the state of Utah to exert leadership to resolve the conflicts with ranchers who view wild horses as competition for cheap grazing on public lands," the statement said.
The BLM Utah office is awaiting word on its requests for money to round up an estimated 1,000 wild horses this summer.
Last week, ranchers in Iron, Beaver and Emery counties sued the BLM, alleging it has failed to do its job in managing the horses.