Action Alert! Please Comment by July 12 on BLM’s Plans to Decimate the Onaqui Wild Horse Herd

Please Comment by July 12 on the BLM’s plans to remove 90% of the Onaqui Herd in Utah This Fall                                

By Carol Walker, Director of Field Documentation, Wild Horse Freedom Federation

The Bureau of Land Management has issued a plan to remove 90% of the wild horses currently in and outside the 205,394 Acre Onaqui Herd Management Area. There are estimated to be 450 adult wild horses plus foals currently living in the area, and this removal would take 379 of them, bringing the herd size down to low Appropriate Management Area for this herd, which is 121 wild horses.

This number is below the number of wild horses necessary to have in a herd in order to maintain genetic viability. The leading geneticist on wild horses, Dr. Gus Cothren says that there must be 150-200 breeding aged adults in order to maintain genetic viability. Removal down to this number is a recipe for disaster for this well known and much beloved herd.

Wild horses should be managed on the range, on our public lands where they belong, not rounded up with helicopters, ripped from their families and the only home they have ever known and warehoused in feedlots and potentially killed or sent to slaughter. This herd does not deserve this fate.

There had already been volunteers working on administering fertility control to maintain the numbers of this herd. Yet the BLM proceeds to plan to roundup and remove all these horses anyway. The BLM should work with volunteers and use fertility control to maintain the numbers of wild horses on the range.

If the BLM does remove any wild horses from this herd, they must not skew the sex ratio to 60% stallions v. 40% mares. The BLM wrongly assumes that more stallions and less mares means a lower birth rate. What its really means is more instability in the family structure, more fighting, less safety for the horses. Wild horse naturally maintain a 50% stallions 50% mares balance. This must be maintained for the health and safety of the herd.

The BLM should reduce livestock grazing in this area and manage wild horses as the principle species here, as they are mandated to do. The Appropriate Management Level should be increased to 450 and the land that was taken away from this Herd Management Area should be restored to active HMA status so that once again the Onaqui Herd Management Area is 507,681 acres. Land continues to be taken away from our wild horses, and this must be stopped.

Some other factors that must be considered is that wild horse viewing and photographing is an important activity for this herd, and a massive removal will severely impact these recreational uses by the public. This area should not be managed primarily for livestock grazing, instead livestock grazing should be greatly reduced. The removal of these horses will greatly impact the county’s tourism income from people traveling to visit these wild horses. The costs to roundup and remove these wild horses plus the additional cost of warehousing them in holding facilities and feed lots is far greater than managing them on our public lands.

The last major concern that must be taken into account is what will ultimately happen to these horses that are rounded up and removed? Right now Congress is considering BLM’s own plans to destroy thousands of healthy wild horses, ship them overseas, and send them to slaughter. The 2019 Appropriations Bill in the House calls for that. Given that our wild horse’s fate is hanging in the balance, these  wild horses would be much safer left in the wild, in their homes.

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