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Iron County leaders look for solution to control wild horse population

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Posted at 10:38 PM, Apr 28, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-29 17:41:40-04

PAROWAN, Utah –Iron County Commissioners are insistent that they want other management options on the table on how to deal with the wild horse population in southwestern Utah.

“Slaughter has to be part of the solution in my opinion,” said Commissioner Alma Adams. “I know this administration is totally against that. The animal rights activists are totally against that -- so that becomes a major stumbling block -- but I hope that common sense will prevail at some point.”

The State Bureau of Land Management directors told Iron County Commissioners Monday morning they are working on long-term solutions to the overwhelming wild horse populations.

Utah State BLM director Juan Palma said long-term solutions they’re considering include the use of contraceptives for the horses and finding ways to offer more adoptions to free up space in holding facilities.

Local BLM staff estimate the wild horse population to be about four times the appropriate levels. The update comes just weeks after commissioners threatened to take management into their own hands.

Palma told the commissioners the agency is in the middle of developing strategy for managing the wild horse population throughout the western states.

“It’s not going to happen overnight,” Palma told the commissioners. “Right now we have a request for 6,474 horse gathers across the western United States. We don’t have enough capacity in our holding facilities for that many horses.”

But Iron County commissioners say they’re expecting more.

Commissioner Dave Miller said they’re getting frustrated at what they call a lack of oversight.

“We’re very concerned that those impacts -- number one to the range, two, to the permittees who are on the range,” Miller said. “How do they get protected if we’re just going through a bureaucratic process?”

Palma said in many ways they’re limited by federal law in what they can do to control horse populations. He added much of their budget for management goes to taking care of horses already in holding facilities.

The BLM does have one horse trap in western Iron County. BLM officials say they haven’t caught any horses so far this year, mostly because of the water conditions.