Wild horse and burro summit sees push-back from advocates

Aug 23, 2017, 7:06 PM | Updated: 7:20 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – What should be done about the over population of wild horses and burros in the western states?  That’s what conservation groups were discussing at a summit held in Salt Lake City.  However, protesters greeted the summit, who say they’re concerned the discussion could lead to horses being slaughtered.

As of March, the Bureau of Land Management logged more than 72 thousand wild horses and burros on ranges in the western states.  That’s well above their goal of under 27 thousand.

Governor Gary Herbert’s Deputy Chief of Staff Mike Mower says, “We’re here because we love wild horses and burros.  We’re concerned about them.  But, we’re also concerned about the sustainability of the herds and about their health.”  He also says they need to worry about the fragile ecosystem of the west desert.

Others inside the conference say current methods of handling the animal population are costly and essentially ineffective.  Terry Messemer with Utah State University says, “The program continues to escalate and wild horse populations are increasing.”  Others say the overpopulation has a negative ripple effect on the rest of the animals living in the desert.

Protesters outside the summit called claims of overpopulation a smoke screen.  Cloud Foundation Executive Director Ginger Kathrens says this could lead to a mass slaughter of horses and burros.  “I would love to have the BLM, the managers of our wild horses, look toward solutions, not killing,” Kathrens says, adding, “For decades, they’ve turned their back on solutions to population growth.”

Representatives from other wild horse advocacy groups say management levels set by the BLM are arbitrary and a product of reduced rangeland for the horses.

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Wild horse and burro summit sees push-back from advocates