The Bureau of Land Management is hosting its annual statewide public hearing in Vernal on Dec. 11 to discuss the use of helicopters and motorized vehicles in the management of wild horses and burros on Utah’s public lands amid recent calls for the method to be suspended.
“Helicopter and motorized vehicle usage is a critical tool for managing wild horses and burros on public lands,” said Gus Warr, BLM-Utah wild horse and burro state lead. “These management tools allow us to conduct aerial population surveys, monitor animal distribution, conduct safe and effective gathers, and transport captured animals in a humane and efficient manner.”
The BLM’s use of helicopters to roundup wild horses in Utah drew criticism from the public when the American Wild Horse Campaign shared photos on Aug. 7 of the animals fleeing from a low-flying helicopter. Several horses are shown jumping and running into barbed-wire fencing. The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign called the practice “inhumane.”
Utah’s current statewide wild horse and burro population is over 4,800 animals, which is more than 200 percent of the approved appropriate management level of 2,000, the BLM said in a press release on Dec. 3.
Having an overabundance of wild horses and burros above BLM management levels may cause resource damage resulting in limited forage and water availability, which reduces the number of animals that the land can support, the BLM said.
More than 15,600 wild horses and burros have been removed from Utah’s rangelands by the BLM since legislated removals began in 1976. Over 8,100 of those animals have been adopted or sold locally; the remainder were shipped outside of Utah for adoption or holding in off-range pastures, according to the BLM. Utah’s 2019 satellite adoptions start in March and continue monthly throughout the state.
The public hearing on the BLM’s use of helicopters and motorized vehicles will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 11, from 6 to 7 p.m. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Vernal Field Office is located at 170 S. 500 East in Vernal. For more information about the upcoming public hearing, or future wild horse and burro adoptions, call 801-539-4050 or 801-539-4057.