Horse Deaths, Controversy Plague Utah Wild Horse Gather

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By Pat Raia, The

As the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) reports the deaths of two wild horses during a Utah gather, some wild horse advocates claim the animals should not have been gathered in the first place.

The gather gained controversy in April when a group of Utah ranchers accused the BLM of violating the Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971 by failing to remove excess wild horses residing on grazing lands used by the ranchers. The complaint alleged that the excess horses damage the rangelands and compete with the ranchers' cattle and other livestock for resources, including water and grasses. Finally the lawsuit alleged that BLM's failure to control the expansion of wild horse herds threatens the ranchers' livelihoods.

While that complaint remains pending, the BLM Utah website said the agency began a gather at the Blawn Wash Wild Horse Herd Management Area on July 28 with the goal of removing 140 wild horses from the herd management area.

On July 30, the agency reported that during the gather a 7-year-old sorrel mare was euthanized due to a pre-existing right rear hock fracture, and a 1-year-old gray filly died due to impact with a corral panel at a temporary holding location.

Lisa Reid, BLM spokeswoman, said the gather, which ended July 31, collected 143 horses.

Reid said the horses were gathered because they had wandered from BLM-managed ranges to state rangelands managed under the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration.

“We are in the middle of a drought, but (the horses) were no longer on BLM herd management area lands and that was the biggest part of it,”she said.

Suzanne Roy, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, said, "These wild horses are not being removed because they are overpopulating. They are being rounded up because the BLM traded away their protected habitat to the state, which leases the land to ranchers who want the wild horses gone.”

Meanwhile, wild horses remain on BLM-managed rangelands, Reid said.

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