Public comments are due by Oct. 31 on a BLM Salt Lake City Field Office Scoping Notice for a roundup of wild horses in the Onaqui Herd Management Area in Utah. Send a personal comment to email@example.com and in the subject line, put Onaqui Wild Horse Gather/Population Control and Research
We are sharing this public comment written by our friend, wild horse & burro advocate (and beekeeper) Susan Rudnicki:
BLM— It has come to my attention that the Utah BLM is considering removing a majority of the Onaqui Mountain wild horse herd—325 horses out of a herd of 450. This is a reckless gutting of the genetic viability of this herd, a 72% decrease that can not sustain genetic resilience, a authoritative opinion of Dr Gus Cothran, equine geneticist.
The citation by BLM that the horses are to be removed to preserve sage grouse habitat also is not underpinned by the facts at hand. The public is well aware of the proposal by the current administration to ACTIVELY REDUCE sage grouse habitat protection, as announced by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who released the recommendations of his sage-grouse “review team”. A short summary of some of the recommendations does not seem to support the contention by Utah BLM that wild horses are a significant impact to Sage Grouse. Instead, the list tries to damage the already concocted 5 year planning process that went into the good-faith flexibility of the 2015 Approved Resource Management Plan Amendments (ARMPAs) and test how far the Interior Department can bend the rules without getting sued. Where is the “protection of Sage Grouse”, as purported to be driving a removal from Onaqui HMA?
In fact, the BLM plan for wild horse removals is factually contradicted by a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service study released in 2012 that did not cite wild horses as one of the top five threats to sage grouse. Instead, it cites energy development, transmission right of ways, fire, invasive species, and commercial development as the top threats. Interestingly, these human installations are the very things Zinke has openly committed to smoothing the way for opening on our public lands.
The round-up proposed by BLM in Onaqui would seem to be driven instead by industrial considerations, as described in the list below, gleaned from Zinke’s team list. I am a citizen and taxpayer able to discern when scapegoats, such as the wild horses, are being used for distraction purposes.
The Zinke report and the forthcoming processes that will revise the ARMPAs are determined to weaken any provisions that inhibit industry, including proposals to:
- Narrow the buffer zones that would protect leks from fossil fuel development disturbance;
- Remove Sagebrush Focal Area restrictions (“SFA” the most important habitat) for fluid mineral operations, and ultimately consider getting rid of SFA altogether;
- Train staff to weaken grazing Habitat Objectives so that they are not included as terms and conditions of livestock grazing permits in key grouse habitats;
- Encourage captive breeding of grouse and increased predator killing – which science has proven don’t work – instead of habitat protection which does; and
- Create the false impression that livestock grazing is good for sage-grouse habitat, when in fact there is no scientific evidence that even light grazing by domestic livestock is beneficial.
I am a astute reader and am able to discern conflicts of interest masquerading as cover for “takings” Sage Grouse AND wild horses are protected and stand to get in the way of industrial development for private profit.
The removal of the wild horses by BLM in the Onaqui HMA must change, to focus instead on fertility control. The plan to treat 60 mares in FY2018 is not adequate to slow reproduction. Volunteers with the Wild Horses of America Foundation are ready and able to implement a larger population control program.
I do not want my taxpayer dollars used on another expensive round-up and stockyard impoundment for wild horses.
Finally, per the most recent recommendation of the BLM National Advisory Board, all wild horses in holding are to be slaughtered or sold to foreign countries for slaughter in the next three years. This is NOT acceptable to the public at large, who are granted by the
WILD FREE-ROAMING HORSES AND BURROS ACT OF 1971
(PUBLIC LAW 92-195)
to be the public which enjoys and oversees the animal’s protection. Any horses taken in the Onaqui HMA could become caught in this tug of war between Federal agencies.
I remain a active, informed American taxpayer,
Sincerely, Susan Rudnicki