Welfare Ranching Trumps Public Opinion: BLM Begins Utah Roundup to Appease Ranchers

Milford, UT (July 28, 2014) . . . Amidst intense scrutiny and strong public opposition, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today moved forward with the roundup of wild horses living on public lands in southeastern Utah.

According to observers for the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), approximately 35-40 horses were captured in a helicopter stampede in the Blawn Wash Herd Management Area (HMA), which is part of the BLM’s Bible Springs Complex. The captured horses, including a handful of foals and yearlings, were all in good condition despite rancher claims that horses were starving on the range. The BLM separated the family bands at the trap site before loading them onto trailers and trucking them to holding pens.

“Private ranching on public lands extracts a high price from wild horses in Utah,” said Ellie Phipps Price, AWHPC supporter and advisor and producer of AMERICAN MUSTANG The Movie. “Today, I watched these horses lose their families, their freedom, and their place on the range because private ranching interests and local politicians are forcing the BLM to remove wild horses from land that was designated by Congress as their protected habitat.”

“Tens of thousands of Americans objected to this roundup, yet the BLM galloped ahead with it to appease a handful of ranchers who demand to graze their private livestock on our public lands even in the face of record-breaking drought,” said AWHPC Director Suzanne Roy. “These wild horses are not being removed because they are overpopulating; they are being rounded up because the BLM traded away their protected habitat to the state, which leases the land to ranchers who want the wild horses gone. ”

 According to AWHPC:

  •  Horses in Blawn Wash are living in their Congressionally designated habitat, which BLM chose to trade away to the state in 2002, resulting in the zeroing out of the HMA.
  •  The BLM allows a maximum of just 170 horses in the 223,000 acre (348 square mile) Bible Springs Complex, where the annual equivalent of 1,445 cow/calf pairs are allowed to graze.
  •  The BLM allocates 8.5 times more forage to livestock than to wild horses in the Bible Springs Complex.
  •  Even at current estimated population levels, privately-owned livestock are consuming two times as much forage as wild horses in the Bible Springs Complex
  •  The ranchers are scapegoating wild horses for range damage caused by livestock. Statewide, livestock range on 22 million acres of land; wild horses are present on just 2.2 million acres of that land.

 This is the first of many roundups that will take place this summer. The BLM is targeting 2,400 wild horses for permanent removal from the range, despite the agency's stockpiling of nearly 50,000 wild horses in government holding facilities. The BLM warehouses more wild horses in holding pens and pastures than remain free on the range.

For AWHPC's eyewitness report on the Bible Springs Complex roundup, please click here.

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. AWHPC is a campaign founded and sponsored by Return to Freedom.