BLM to Target Wild Horses in Utah to Appease Cattle Ranchers

Unedited excerpt By of The Salt Lake Tribune

“The Utah ‘Good Ole Boy’ club comes out this week with their guns a blazing as the BLM bends to the pressure of a law suit where local politicians, in the pocket of cattle ranchers, want wild horses cleared off the land so their welfare cattle can strip the range clear of any foliage.  Gotta just love the mentality of the ‘Bubbas’ as most of them refer to the 6th grade as their ‘Senior Year’ and it shows.  (meanwhile, back in Texas, we buy land, fence it, pay taxes on it and maintain it for livestock…no bovine welfare in the Lone Star State, oh dang, I used a big word again.  Bovine=Cows, boys…get it?)” ~ R.T.

The Bureau of Land Management this week launches another roundup to remove wild horses from Utah’s open range, this time targeting Blawn Wash in Beaver County, where ranchers have complained free-roaming horses are degrading the range.

Privately owned welfare cattle being herded onto public land and wild horse habitat . ~  photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation
Privately owned welfare cattle being herded onto public land and wild horse habitat . ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

The roundup fulfills a legal settlement with state officials who took the BLM to court last year over the proliferation of wild horses on state trust lands in the West Desert. That settlement calls on the feds and the state to work cooperatively to manages horses there. These animals, which are protected under federal law, have become a sore point for ranchers and county commissioners who say the BLM is failing to keep horse numbers in check.

The agency spends millions gathering horses off the range and housing them for life in contract corrals.

Starting on Wednesday, the BLM will deploy helicopters to drive up to 150 horses into traps. The public is invited to observe the operation each day. Those interested must meet BLM staff at the KB Express, 238 S. Main in Milford, by 5 a.m. Call 801-539-4050 for details.

Last month, the BLM removed 370 horses from the Conger and Frisco herd-management areas. About 60 were returned to the range as part of a population-control research project.

Under a 2001 land exchange, the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration amassed a 26,000-acre block of land about 35 miles southwest of Milford at Blawn Wash, representing 43 percent of what was then a federal herd-management area and more than two-thirds of its forage.

The state has routinely pressured the BLM to rid these lands of horses, but their numbers bounced back after each of the previous four roundups. Since 2000, the BLM has pulled 550 horses from Blawn, including 143 as recently as two years ago.

Some of the gathered animals are adopted out, but most join thousands of other formerly free-roaming horses spending their lives in captivity at the expense of U.S. taxpayers. Federal law prohibits the killing of wild horses except for humanitarian purposes.

Horse advocacy groups, which had tried to intervene in the suit, were displeased with the BLM court settlement, asserting it puts the narrow interests of ranchers ahead of the broader public’s.


  1. What was the public given in exchange for that land ? Was this a crooked land deal? Wonder who profited? It sure wasn’t OUR wild horses.


  2. Don’t these ranchers have to pay income taxes like other businesses?

    If so, their own tax dollars are being bled off to pay for these removals and the BLM’s off-range holding, despite their subsidized grazing privileges. If we presume 50,000 horses held off-range, and about the same number on-range, that’s about 100,000 wild horses being managed with taxpayer dollars.

    The annual BLM budget is now 1.2 or 1.3 BILLION dollars, with more than half allocated to the wild horse and burro program. Figuring this at half means 600 million taxpayer dollars are being spent annually to manage about 100,000 animals, or about $6,000 per animal per year.

    At these rough numbers, one wild horse is costing ALL taxpayers (including all for-profit businesses holding grazing permits) about the value of two or three adult cows each year, with the highest percent of the costs accrued in off-range holding. Moving wild horses off-range ultimately doesn’t benefit either the grazing businesses or any other taxpayers, it is an illusion to think otherwise.

    The bottom line, is there is no real distinction to be made between legitimate, for-profit ranchers and the general public – we are all “the public” in the eyes of the IRS.


    • I don’t think there are 50,000 wild horses still on the range. The BLM fudges the numbers on them like the burros. There may be 25,000 still free.


      • Barbara, I don’t either, but for the purposes of an assumption from which to make cost calculations, used a figure less than the BLM insists, but more than many believe. If there are fewer than 50,000 on the range, then the per horse “management” costs will be correspondingly higher under the current budget proposal.


  3. Regardless if the BLM previously decided to allow administration of a portion of the Blawn Wash Herd Area acreage (now used for private/corporate financial gain by privately owned domestic livestock ranchers and others) to the State of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), the 1971 unanimously passed Congressional Wild Horse and Burro Act gave the principal usage of that land to the Wild Horses and Burros. From available data, the Blawn Wash Herd Area has over 2000 AUMs now used by private/corporate “for profit” domestic livestock ranchers. Reestablishing this legal wild horse herd area land for the principal use of wild horses would add approximately 2058 additional animal unit months (AUMs) for the wild horses and therefore allow approximately 182 Wild Horses to be allowed to live on their Legal Land. By law, wild horses must be allowed to remain and use the resources on their legal land. This is still federal land designated to the protection of the wild horses and burros and the land belongs to the American people, regardless of any “agreements” regarding “control” that BLM made with SITLA – the 1971 Congressional wild Horse and Burro Act prevails. It is the law.


  4. The major welfare rancher in the Blawn Wash Herd Area is Wintch & Co. and Mark Wintch, a Utah rancher who grazes his cattle on public land just west of Milford, says that “these horses are nothing more than feral animals, and if the government isn’t going to do anything about them then they should remove the [1971] act from the books.”

    “What can be done to address the problems associated with public lands livestock grazing? There is a simple answer: end it. Get the cows and sheep off, let the wild creatures reclaim their native habitat, and send the ranchers a bill for the cost of restoration.”
    Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West


    • How nice, one susidized, for-profit rancher decides his opinion should matter more than a unanimous act of Congress, in response to a national grassroots effort, that itself resulted from ranchers abusive practices regarding wild horsesa and burros.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. From Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)

    Data Quantifying and Qualifying Grazing Effects on Land Health Belatedly Restored
    Posted on Apr 18, 2016

    “PEER is tracking the disturbing trend of worsening range conditions across the 20,000 BLM grazing allotments,” added Stade, noting that much of the missing data covers the period when drought conditions across much of the Sagebrush West worsened. “We are concerned that BLM is poised to repeat the same mistakes by developing a new monitoring system behind closed doors that obscures rather than reveals the real conditions on public rangelands. Why should data about public lands grazing be kept secret?”


  6. Study faults public-land grazing fees
    Subsidy costs taxpayers, authors say
    August, 2016

    A new analysis has found a widening gap between the taxpayer-subsidized rates that ranchers pay to graze their livestock on public land and the higher fees charged by private landowners.

    The study, “Costs and Consequences: The Real Price of Livestock Grazing on America’s Public Lands,” comes as the BLM prepared to announce grazing fees today for the upcoming year on 229 million acres of publicly owned land, most of it in the West. The report was prepared by economists on behalf of the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity.

    BLM and U.S. Forest Service grazing fees are $1.35 per month per animal unit (a cow and a calf) or for five sheep, just 6.7 percent of what it would cost to graze livestock on private grazing lands, the study found.

    According to the study, there are about 800,000 livestock operators and cattle producers in the United States. Of those, fewer than 21,000-or 2.7 percent of the nation’s total livestock operators-benefit from the Forest Service and BLM grazing programs in the West.

    The study pointed out that the federal subsidy goes beyond direct costs and fees. Indirect costs include the Department of Agriculture’s killing of thousands of native carnivores perceived as threats to livestock, wildfire suppression caused by invasive cheat grass facilitated by cattle grazing and expenditure of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funds to protect species threatened by livestock grazing, the study said.


  7. Stop Federal Funding
    They can’t have it both ways….
    IF “they” are allowed to remove Federally Protected Wild Horses & Burros from their Legal Herd Management Areas in Utah,
    then also remove Federal Funding

    Utah depends too much on federal funds, auditor warns
    By Lisa Riley Roche | Posted Dec 4th, 2013

    SALT LAKE CITY – Utah State Auditor John Dougall included a warning about the state’s dependency on money from Washington, D.C., in issuing the latest annual audit of federal spending.

    “Given the recent partial shutdown and the budget turmoil in Congress, Utahns should consider the concerns raised by such a significant amount of funding dependent on a single source with such fiscal dysfunction,” Dougall said.

    Federal funds are expected to once again be the largest single source of revenue in Gov. Gary Herbert’s nearly $13 billion spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1, 2014, scheduled to be released Wednesday.
    “All I’m trying to do here is flag that we’re heavily dependent on them,” Dougall said of the federal government. “We know they have serious budget problems. Wake up, folks.”

    A member of the Legislature for 10 years before being elected auditor in 2012, Dougall said he hopes to reinforce efforts already underway to reduce the state’s reliance on federal funds.



    “In reality, SITLA contributes just 1-2% of the public schools’ budget.
    What do SITLA’s choices actually give the residents of Utah?
    The high rate of infant mortality in the Uintah Basin and the red air days in the Salt Lake Valley during which children and pregnant women are told to stay indoors, for starters.
    Human health will be jeopardized even more if the world’s dirtiest projects are allowed to take root in Utah.
    Along with decimated ecosystems, dwindling watersheds, and climate chaos, these realities show that SITLA’s choices are giving our children a toxic and frightening future, leaving them to cope with previous generations’ mistakes.


    • That was dated last October – Were they successful in stopping this – or does the US now have a tar sands project of our own? Whether we want it or not. Sounds like they already had mining in the area.


  9. I care to comment. Why do humans think it’s ok to break up family bands and imprison horses? It never changes. How would they like it if someone dragged them out of their homes away from their families and caged them????? How is this right? How is anyone in government allowing this to happen to living creatures?


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