Salt Lake City, UT (May 1, 2014) . . . More than 7,000 citizens faxed Utah Governor Gary Herbert in less than 24 hours yesterday, urging him to back off his attack on federally protected wild horses in his state. Faxes poured in from as far away as Europe and from states as diverse as Alaska and Florida, reminding Governor Herbert that Utah’s mustangs are part of the state’s allure, and warning that Utah tourism will suffer if the state does not reverse its anti-mustang stand.

At the same time, the BLM announced yesterday that it is caving to pressure from ranchers and local officials and fast tracking the roundup of hundreds of wild horses in the southwestern corner of the state. 

Last week, Governor Herbert suggested that the state of Utah manage wild horses to “keep ranges open for livestock grazing.” The Governor’s statement was made in response to the Utah Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) request to livestock grazing permittees that they reduce grazing levels on BLM land due to the drought. The Governor implied that ranchers were being told to reduce grazing due to burgeoning wild horse populations, however, BLM Utah Director clarified that over 90 percent of permittees who were asked to reduce grazing were not impacted in any way by wild horses.

  “Ranchers and their allies must stop the scapegoating of wild horses for damage to the public rangelands caused by livestock grazing,” said Suzanne Roy, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), a national coalition. “Cattle and sheep graze on ten times more public land in Utah than do wild horses. Privately-owned livestock vastly outnumber federally-protected wild horses, even on the small amount of land that has been designated as mustang habitat.”

  “The American public strongly supports protecting wild horses on our Western public lands,” said Neda DeMayo, President of Return to Freedom (RTF), a national wild horse preservation and sanctuary organization. “Fundamentally, this is an issue about how our public lands are managed and for whom.”

Also yesterday, news broke that BLM was fast tracking a wild horse roundup in the Bible Springs Complex due to pressure from ranchers and their local political allies, who, inspired by outlaw Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, threatened to take matters into their own hands if the BLM does not act. In response, DeMayo stated: 

“American citizens are upset about the threatening, bullying tactics employed by the livestock industry and their political allies in the West. It’s time for the BLM, Governor Herbert and other Utah officials recognize that the public lands – and the wild horses that inhabit them – belong to all Americans, not just the handful of ranchers who profit from the taxpayer subsidies that accompany public lands grazing. We must all work together to preserve these national icons.” 

RTF and AWHPC are urging the BLM to cancel plans to roundup wild horses in southwestern Utah and instead follow the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which, in a report last year, identified PZP birth control as an immediately available tool for controlling populations and as “the most acceptable alternative to removing animals for managing population numbers.”

Earlier this week, AWHPC, RTF and The Cloud Foundation sent a letter to Governor Herbert urging him to change course on the wild horse issue. The Governor posted a response on his blog yesterday. 

 The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.

Return to Freedom (RTF), is the founding and parent organization for the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign. RTF is a national non-profit dedicated to wild horse preservation through sanctuary, education and conservation, and also operates the American Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc, CA.