BLM announced on 07/12/19 the beginning of a comment period for an environmental assessment of the Range Creek HMA Gather Plan. The assessment looks at the effects of a proposed action along with those of its alternatives.
The HMA, in eastern Utah, contains 55,023 acres, according to the EA. (The HMA page says 83,410 acres.) The upper limit of the AML is 125, for an aimed-at population density of 2.3 animals per thousand acres. The current population, estimated to be 282 wild horses, yields a pre-gather density of 5.1 animals per thousand acres.
The density target for all HMAs managed by the BLM is one animal per thousand acres.
The plan allocates 3,267 AUMs per year to privately owned livestock. The allocation for wild horses is 1,500 AUMs per year (125 × 12).
The AUM budget for livestock yields 544 cow/calf pairs, assuming they graze six months per year, for a population density of 9.9 pairs per thousand acres. (The resource loading for one wild horse is the same as one cow/calf pair per BLM guidelines.)
These figures are summarized in the following charts:
There’s your thriving ecological balance. Land that only support 2.3 wild horses per thousand acres can support almost five time as many cow/calf pairs.
The proposed action (page 12 in the EA) would remove up to 263 wild horses from the HMA, skew the sex ratio of the remaining herd, and apply contraceptives to mares returned to their home range.
The proposal will shift approximately 3,100 AUMs per year from the horse column to the cattle column, on land set aside for the horses.
This is because the WHB Act no longer affords the protections sought by Velma.