Stop the Roundup of the Onaqui Wild Horse Herd in Utah!
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The Onaqui Herd is a group of wild horses found in western Utah. They are beloved by citizens around the world, horse lovers, photographers, and those with a deep respect for our rich history here in the western United States. But they are under threat!!! The Bureau of Land Management currently has plans to round up over 465 horses(91% of the herd!) from this revered and precious herd in early 2019(exact date not announced). This will rob these iconic symbols of the American West of their freedom and tear apart the wild horse families that people all over the world have come to know and love. This roundup is generating massive public opposition but the BLM continues to avoid cancelling the roundup in favor of a more humane and sustainable long term wild horse management plan. The wild horse population used to be estimated at over 2 million individuals, now no more than 80,000 wild horses roam free. Approximately 2,600 of that number reside here in Utah! With limited public land, wild horse populations cannot run rampant. However, there are many alternatives to traumatic wild horse roundups(alternatives that will be discused below), but the BLM refuses to implement them.
During BLM sanctioned wild horse roundups, wild horses are traumatically stampeded over long stretches by helicopters and other means. This herding technique is not only terrifying but horses are often injured in the process. They are herded into small corrals where many of the old and young are hurt by their panicked herd members. After they are confined they await their fate. While some of the younger wild horses(usually age 5 or younger) are run through the adoption curcuit, many are condemned to live in small confinement pens for the rest of their lives. Last year 4,600 horses were adopted out, but that pales in comparison to the 11,000 horses that are scheduled to be rounded up this year. Where do the excess horses go? Not back on the rangeland, and the answer is expensive. The wild horses rounded up and removed from public lands are placed in holding facilities. The cost of rounding up, removing, and holding wild horses costs an estimated $50 MILLION DOLLARS in tax payer money PER YEAR. For one horse that remains in one of these holding facilities for the entirety of its life can cost upwards of $50,000 per animal. There are over 45,000 wild horses currently being held in government run facilities. The BLM has contracts with ranchers who hold and care for the horses and pay for them so much per day to keep the horses. Additionally, many wild horses end up in less than favorable conditions, which potentially means they get shipped to slaughter. Over 100,000 horses here in the United States are shipped to slaughter in either Canada or Mexico every year. This number includes domesticated horses as well as wild horses. Slaughter houses in the US were closed in 2007, but those who profit from the horse meat industry have found a loophole and now just ship the horses long distances to meet their terrible end.
Why the incentive to get rid of wild horses? The answers are murky. One answer commonly regurgitated is that wild horses are ruining public land. However, there is no evidence that wild horses are the perpetrators. Quite the opposite however. According to the AWHC, “Wild horses are not present on more than 80% of rangelands, which makes the claim that that they are overrunning the range preposterous. Moreover, according to the BLM, less than one-quarter of available forage within Herd Management Areas (HMAs) is allocated to wild horses. More than 75% is allocated to livestock. (1.1 million AUMs for livestock; 320,000 AUMs for wild horses and burros.). The vast majority of rangeland and forage is reserved for livestock not wild horses.” Here in Utah, livestock grazes on more than 22 million acres of public land, while wild horses are only allowed to graze on 2.1 million acres of land—land which also is grazed by cattle and sheep. Wild horses in Utah therefore occupy less than 10% of public land.
It seems to come down to money. Cattlemen see wild horses as competition for cheap taxpayer subsidized livestock grazing on public lands. Ranchers pay $1.41 per animal per month to graze on public lands versus paying over $20 per animal per month to graze on private lands in the west. HOWEVER our wild horses still need to be able to roam free! We cannot decimate healthy wild horse populations at the hand of the cattle and sheep industries. There is only one wild horse per 29,000 football fields allowed on public land. The BLM only allows 16,300-27,00 wild horses to roam on public lands today. The BLM allows the equivalent of 727,000 cow-calf pairs to roam public land today. Seems a more than a little unfair and unbalanced.
By setting a national limit of wild horses at just 16,300 – 27,000, the BLM wants to decrease the number of wild horses drastically. In 1971 congress determined that wild horses were rapidly disappearing and acted unanimously to save them, passing a bill that protected all 25,000 remaining wild horses. Now that we’ve seen improvements in our wild horse population the Bureau of Land Management wants to reduce the number of horses BACK DOWN to when it wasn’t previously determined to be too low? Additionally there are less cattle on public lands now than there was in 1971, with less than 2% of America’s beef coming from the US. Doesn’t make sense, BLM.
So what are the REAL solutions? The AWHC suggests:
”1. Using the proven PZP fertility control vaccineto reduce population growth rates.(a vaccine administered every 2 years, 96% effective, costs $36 per vaccine aka extremely cost effective compared to whatnot the BLM is currently spending)
2, Creating public-private partnerships to implement humane management programs.
3. Adjusting the artificially low and unscientific AMLs to accommodate current population levels and allow for the preservation of wild horses and burros in genetically viable herds.
4. Developing mechanisms to compensate ranchers for reduced use or non-use of public grazing allotments in HMAs. Compensating ranchers will be far cheaper than continuing to roundup, remove and stockpile wild horses in holding facilities.
5. Reducing the population of horses in holding by transferring them to zeroed out Herd Areas or other public lands areas where they can earn their own keep. These horses are non-reproducing, so will phase out over time and thus will not create additional management challenges.”
With the $50 million dollars that the BLM is currently spending annually on rounding up and holding our wildness horses in confinement, they couldn’t be implementing the above ideas to properly and humanely control our wild horse populations, creating win-win situations for everyone’s involved. But they won’t listen. Last summer, 2018, more than 7,000 individuals signed a petition and wrote letters saying they opposed the roundup of the Onaqui Herd. But the BLM continues to plan to roundup this precious herd, despite public outcry.
We, the people, need to protect our wild horses! Wild horses that are being captured, traumatized, and in many cases injured or killed. Wild horses are a symbol. A symbol of freedom, a symbol of strength, a symbol of our heritage. Whether you consider yourself a horse lover or not, care about the plight of the American mustang. Because the involves everyone. There are so many alternatives to continuing rounding up our wild horses and decimating herd populations. Tell our government that we care about our wild horses! It is time that the government and the BLM listens to the voices of the American people. Sign this petition if you want to stop the looming roundup of the local Utah Onaqui herd happening soon in 2019 and have a better discussion about long term solutions! If we don’t speak up for them, who will? Make your voice heard!
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