Utah Environment
6:14 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

Utah Horse Roundup Stirs Controversy And Debate

The start of the Blawn Wash Gather on Monday has once again sparked debate about the management of wild horses in Utah. 

Lisa Reid with the BLM says the roundup is going well. The BLM aims to collect 140 horses from state land in the south western portion of Utah.

“Thus far we’ve been able to gather 70 horses successfully, we’ve had no incidences, no deaths, everything had come in healthy, looks great and we couldn’t be more pleased with operations,” Reid said.

Opponents to the collection of the horses say new management practices need to be used. Suzanne Roy, Director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, says the area where the horses are currently being gathered used to be designated as a federal habitat area. When the BLM traded the area to the state no provisions were made for the horses, and now they are being eliminated.

Young horses in a BLM holding facility, waiting to be adopted.
Credit blm.gov

Roy says the BLM’s practice of putting the horses up for adoption is not a solution, explaining that 50,000 horses are in holding facilities across the U.S. while only 2,500 horses are adopted each year.

“To suggest that adoption is the solution here is definitely misleading," she said. "The majority of the horses are going to be sent to long-term holding facilities where they have to be maintained at taxpayer expense, and that’s not a solution."

Roy says birth control methods should be implemented instead of collection, though Reid says that isn’t possible because of the land designation. She says horses on state land are considered a nuisance.

“Fertility control is a wonderful method that we use, it’s a tool that we have, however, in this particular area, because it is on state land there should be not horses on the property, this is considered private and no horses are to be managed on this,” Reid said.

Despite the current disagreements on management practices, Roy says she thinks the conflict is resolvable.

“I believe that the conflicts with ranchers are resolvable and I think that we can agree with the ranchers that the BLM has not managed the horses in the right way," Roy said. "Where we disagree with the ranchers is what the right way to manage horses is. It’s pretty clear that the majority of Americans support humanely managing the horses on the land that has been designated their habitat.”

The collection of the horses is expected to go through August 5.