A story published yesterday by St. George News of St. George, UT said the BLM issued a Finding of No Significant Impact, allowing a plan to move forward that would remove most of the wild horses from the North Hills Joint Management Area in southwest Utah.
The JMA includes the North Hills HMA and North Hills WHT. It contains 50,127 acres of BLM land (shown in tan on the following map), 24,006 acres of USFS land and 10,511 acres of state and private lands (shown in light green), for a total of 84,646 acres.
The herd size is now about 270 wild horses, according to the report, for a pre-gather population density of 3.1 animals per thousand acres.
A district ranger interviewed for the story went slightly off narrative, saying “The land is supporting that number right now, but that doesn’t mean that that’s a healthy herd.”
The aimed-at population density, based on an AML of 60, is 0.7 horses per thousand acres (60 ÷ 84,646 × 1,000). The horses would consume 720 AUMs annually (60 × 12).
The Forest Service prohibits domestic livestock grazing on the WHT but the BLM allows it on the HMA, which is intersected by five allotments. Privately owned cattle and sheep are eligible for 1,967 AUMs per year inside the HMA, according to page 27 of the plan.
Given an average grazing interval of roughly four months (see page 28), the AUM budget converts to 492 cow/calf pairs (1,967 ÷ 4). This yields an aimed-at population density of 9.8 cow/calf pairs per thousand acres (492 ÷ 50,127 × 1,000).
These figures are presented in the following charts:
The proposed gather will come very close to achieving these goals. As usual, the horses get the short end of the stick, on land set aside for them.
It’s time to end public-lands ranching.