By Tracie Sullivan, The Spectrum
CEDAR CITY – After confirming it had received 26,574 comments opposing the agency’s proposed upcoming horse gather in two southern Utah counties, Bureau of Land Management officials are now saying their records were inaccurate.
The number should have actually been closer to 36,000.
The comments were part of an environmental assessment being conducted by the BLM in order to do a series of roundups that would reduce approximately 700 wild horses from the Bible SpringsComplex located in Iron and Beaver Counties.
In an email to The Spectrum and Daily News on Friday, BLM spokeswoman Megan Crandall said she had been contacted by representatives from the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign that asked she “double-check” the agency’s records.
While closer examination of the BLM’s records showed nothing different Crandall said it could be a problem with their email system.
“It’s not uncommon for our mail system to thread/clump emails strangely, especially if they were forwarded from one stakeholder to the next, which could have lumped comments together causing a discrepancy,” she said.
Crandall said Deniz Bobol, a representative of the wild horse campaign, explained to her that the system her organization uses for recording comments separates each submission individually.
Because Bobol was able to show their organization had in fact sent in 35,677 comments, the BLM is now giving them credit for that number.
“They sent me a spreadsheet that showed the individual names on it, so I was able to confirm that number,” Crandall said. “And we feel like if they took the time to send in the comment then we need to recognize that.”
All 35,677 comments from the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign originated from a form letter with the same wording on each — with different signatures.
The BLM did receive 149 unique comments by people against the horse gather proposed for this coming July.
The number of comments from opponents doesn’t matter, however, to Iron County Commissioner Dave Miller who says the BLM is breaking the law by not reducing the population of wild horses to the appropriate management levels required by law.
“It’s a moot point. They don’t have any relevancy,” Miller said. “The BLM is breaking the law and the quantity of supporters supporting them doing that doesn’t invalidate the law.”
According to Miller and supporters of a horse roundup, to get the AML to the legal limit the BLM would have to remove approximately 600-700 horses from just the Bible Springs Complex, which doesn’t take into account areas in the two counties where there officials say there is an overpopulation of wild horses.
The BLM will conduct a public hearing Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Cedar City Heritage Center to hear comment on the use of helicopters and ATVs for rounding up the 200 horses proposed to be removed next month.
The hearing is part of the process under the National Environmental Policy Act.
Iron and Beaver County Commissioners have threatened to start dealing with the wild horses themselves July 1 if the BLM doesn’t do it themselves. What that entails remains to be seen as the commissioners have not been willing to get into details of how far they’re willing to go or what they plan to do.