Horse News

Protect Public Lands and the Wild Onaqui Horses

By Charlotte Roe | Special to The Tribune
By law, the Onaqui horses are a protected wildlife species, an important cultural resource, an integral part of the ecosystem.

In the Skull Valley, in Utah’s West Desert, a band of wild horses grazes peacefully. The sand and mountains echo their many colors. Fans of the Onaqui wild horses come from afar to photograph them, to study their intricate social bonds. Through the Wild Horses of America Foundation, volunteers dart selected wild mares with birth control vaccines and work to protect their standing on the land.

By law, the Onaqui horses are a protected wildlife species, an important cultural resource, an integral part of the ecosystem. They bring tourist dollars to remote Tooele County.

On Sept. 11, the Bureau of Land Management is to start a series of roundups that will shatter mustang families and sever their wild roots. With an initial capture target of 200, BLM aims to remove and warehouse three-quarters of the herd now estimated at 450 animals. This would eventually leave 121 horses — roughly an average of 1,000 acres per mustang — while several thousand cattle continue grazing in the crucial months for range health.

The bold fiction of overpopulation spurs the removals. The BLM cites an Appropriate Management Level (AML) for the Onaqui herd — between 121 and 210 horses — so it can paint the majority of the free-roaming herd as “excess.”

In its 2013 study, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) found that AMLs are arbitrary, inflexible and lack scientific foundation. Yet the flawed measurements remain.

A second unfounded claim is that wild horses hurt sage grouse habitat. This distracts attention from the leading causes of rangeland degradation: livestock grazing and other invasive commercial activities that spur global warming. The bulk of the Onaqui herd doesn’t intersect sage grouse territory. While pointing a crooked finger at wild horses, the administration is undermining key safeguards and habitat that would facilitate these keystone birds’s recovery.

The BLM requested $50 million from Congress for a management plan to reduce overall wild horse and burro populations to a national AML of 26,710, a level considered so dangerously low that Congress unanimously passed the 1971 Wild Free-Ranging Horses and Burros Act to prevent these animals from “fast disappearing from the Western landscape.”

The disappearance plan was developed by Utah Rep. Chris Stewart and a lobbying coalition headed by the National Cattlemen’s Association. The proposal would nearly triple the wild horses and burros incarcerated in holding, with no fiscal provision for their upkeep. It would weaken herds genetically. It would skew sex ratios leading to heightened aggression and a crashing of remnant populations. It would enable the BLM to sterilize wild mares through discredited, highly risky colpotomy surgeries that destroy free-ranging behavior.

Why do the lives of these heritage animals matter? Like the sage grouse, wild equids are deeply tied to the struggle against industrializing America’s public lands. The Wild Horse Act protected wild free-roaming horses and burros as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West” that “contribute to the diversity of life forms” and “enrich the lives of the American people.”

Through decades of mismanagement, misleading information and land grabs, this legal mandate has been subverted to favor special interests supporting subsidized livestock grazing and extractive industries. In 1971, wild equids were protected on over 53 million acres. The BLM and U.S. Forest Service have arbitrarily cut away 41 percent of that acreage.

Reforms supported by 110 equine advocate and animal welfare groups include safe, humane techniques of population management, adjusting unfair forage allotments, restoring wild equid habitat, a reexamination of AMLs and other science-based solutions. Instead, the BLM is asking Congress to put a broken management system on steroids. Without debate, the House of Representatives approved $6 million toward the proposed $50 million management plan. The Senate and then a Senate-House conference will next consider this appropriations request.

Please tell your lawmakers to send the BLM’s wild horse extinction plan back to the drawing board. We can choose: a barren landscape — or standing up for public lands and the wild lives that belong there.

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9 replies »

  1. It seems like every time I read my emails more and more animals are abused or the government that is suppose to protect them are the very ones wanting to destroy them. THIS IS A DISGRACE. Get someone in there that will do the job and protect ALL animals.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Why don’t we get some Politicians that don’t cater to Wealthy Cattlemen Lobbyists and mining interests ?
      We soon won’t have ANY wild horses or burros to glorify our Western Landscapes & we can’t bring them back.
      California is going to introduce a bill to protect their horses.
      All states should do this but we need good Representatives .,glad CA is doing this but its too late for the Devils Garden horses .
      I am totally ill about the Onaqui herd. roundup in Utah coming up tomorrow. They are a very special Historical herd rich in,history .
      It’s criminal to eradicate most of them so that special interests groups can take over their delegated land and use for their own,profit .
      Meanwhile these gorgeous wild horses , our American Treasures are being cruelly rounded up via helicopters..tomorrow .
      I don’t want to see any pics from the Onaqui roundup unless there is one with helicopters flying upside down and sputtering out of gas

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Why haven’t lawsuits been filed by the animal organizations that I donate to? I’m disgusted by what’s going on.

    The Bureau of Land Management needs to be charged with animal cruelty. Forty years worth of animal cruelty.

    If I did what they have done, I’d be in jail!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Is anyone here aware that the Cowboy Channel is carrying “The Wild Spayed Filly Futurity”??? I knew Lucas “sponsored” a futurity but had no idea that its actually being broadcast on cable!! Speaking of animal cruelty – and looks like this is season TWO which of course means there has already been a season ONE! What the h___! spreading the propaganda to a public that has no conception of the cruelty and abuse involved.
    Actually, why am I shocked at thispoint.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The Wilderness Society

    On July 29, William Perry Pendley was appointed acting head of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Why should you be concerned? For starters, Pendley is unapoligetically anti-public lands and a proponent of Big Oil.

    That’s right-the fox is now guarding the henhouse.
    We can’t put 250 million acres of precious public lands into the hands of an anti-conservation zealot.

    Here are 3 reasons we need to stop Pendley
    Reason 1: He’s part of the fringe anti-public land movement. Pendley claims the “Founding Fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold” and cheers on any policies that facilitate mining, drilling and development on public lands.

    Reason 2: He opposes national monuments and the Antiquities Act. Pendley wildly applauded Trump’s unlawful cuts to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments-and when Native American tribes and conservation groups challenged the actions in court, he cast Trump as “David fight[ing] Goliath out West.”

    Reason 3: He’s a climate denier. Pendley refers to the overwhelming body of research on climate change as “political science or junk science.” He’s fought efforts by the EPA to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Given that a major chunk of those emissions come from fossil fuels extracted on public lands, reducing those emissions is a key starting point for addressing climate change. If Pendley is running an agency that oversees tens of thousands of oil, gas and coal leases on public lands, the climate crisis will move in the wrong direction. Pendley’s confirmation will be catastrophic for the future of 250 million acres of our national treasures.

    Liked by 2 people

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