CEDAR CITY – Garfield, Beaver and Iron County commissioners continued meetings in Washington, D.C., Wednesday after presenting the “Constitution Jurisdiction Resolution” Tuesday, which was recently passed by the Iron County Commission.
County commissioners met with head officials from the Bureau of Land Management to discuss the wild horse issue.
“It went very cordial, but it was very firm,” David Miller, Iron County commissioner, said. “We were very, very firm in pointing out this discrepancy that exists.”
Currently, the number of wild horses on BLM-managed land in Iron County surpasses what the BLM calls “Appropriate Management Level” – that is, “the number of wild horses and burros which can graze without causing damage to the range.”
The BLM is receiving pressure from groups to treat wild horses in different ways than prescribed, Miller said. They are trying to respond to this type of rhetoric.
“The BLM knows what the problem is and they want to fix it, but they just don’t have the capacity,” Miller said. “Their holding facilities are full.”
The system has a lot of little things that are broken, Miller said. A resolution needs to come from Congress, and understanding is needed regarding how troublesome some of the current laws are in regard to wild horses.
“We’ve got to get that fixed at the congressional level,” Miller said. “Frankly, the BLM is doing about the best they can do under the circumstances. The more I dive into this the more I realize when you put bad policy after bad it just really makes things worse.”
Miller said he is more sympathetic to the BLM regarding restrictions they face due to poor policy and poor application of law. Where he does not sympathize is the BLM coming into an area and affecting citizens with a broken policy, he said.
Endangered Species Act
Some groups and foundations don’t have the same viewpoints or philosophies as Miller on the issue.
Friends of Animals and the Cloud Foundation have filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list North American wild horses on public lands as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
According to a press release from Friends of Animals, this was done because the groups feel that the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act has failed to protect the wild horses.
These types of groups are trying to abuse an already abused law, Miller said.
“The Endangered Species Act has an appeal to Americans because we don’t want any species to go extinct,” he said. “For them to petition under the Endangered Species Act demonstrates they disregard the credibility of that program for their own benefit.”
There is a misclassification of wild horses as a nonnative species, Ginger Kathrens, executive director of The Cloud Foundation, said. Without proper recognition of their native status, the horses could become extinct.
The BLM is obligated, under the Wild Horse and Burro Act, to protect wild, free-roaming horses as an “integral part of the natural system of public lands.”
According to the press release from Friends of Animals, the BLM claims that wild horses need to be removed from public lands to protect rangeland health. However, the vast majority of public lands are open to livestock grazing, which causes far more damage to the land.
“(The BLM is) receiving unbelievable amounts of pressure by groups that don’t understand how grazing rights work,” Miller said. “They don’t understand how important it is to keep the health of the range viable.”
It is argued that removing and gathering wild horses can disturb the land and affect it negatively.
“Every time the government restricts their habitat or takes them away from the range, it disrupts horses’ social bonds and damages the overall fitness of the herds,” Barnes said. “However, saving wild horses in North America and letting them roam freely could bring balance back to our ecosystems.”
We all love horses, Miller said; this is not about horses. The issue is about a program that is outbalanced and affecting the people of Iron County, he said.
Miller added that he has a responsibility to the people of Iron County and will not take that lightly.
The Wednesday meeting with the BLM concluded the commissioners’ visit to Washington, D.C., and the commissioners have since returned to Utah.
- County commissioners go to Washington; Day 1
- County Commission fights federal overreach, mismanagement
- Perspectives: Iron County Commission, on the right path
- BLM releases wild horse gather environmental assessment, Iron County not satisfied
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