BLM trots out its plan to gather wild horses

A helicopter is used to round up wild horses in the Book Cliffs.



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A helicopter is used to round up wild horses in the Book Cliffs.

Bureau of Land Management officials are hoping wild horses take the bait in this year’s partial gather in the Book Cliffs north of Grand Junction.

At a public hearing Tuesday night seeking comment on the BLM’s preliminary environmental assessment for the wild horse gather, officials laid out their initial plans to gather up to 50 wild horses and comply with the BLM’s Appropriate Management Level of 90 to 150 horses for the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range. Currently, the herd has about 155 horses, according to the BLM.

“We are trying to manage these horses in the most humane way possible,” said Jerome Fox, the BLM’s Northwest Colorado District wild horse and burro specialist, addressing the hearing’s two dozen attendees.

Last week, BLM officials selected five sites onto which baited traps will be placed. Jim Dollarschell, a BLM range specialist, said tentative plans call for first baiting the traps with salt or mineral blocks, though alfalfa and hay also are being considered. Then, water will be used as bait.

“There’s a high chance of getting the numbers we’ll need by bait trapping,” Fox said. BLM officials have the option of using motorized vehicles or helicopters in the gathering, and Tuesday’s meeting doubled as an annual statewide hearing to address the use of motorized vehicles and helicopters in land and wildlife management.

Toni Moore, special projects coordinator for the Cloud Foundation, expressed concern that the meeting’s double purpose as a statewide hearing hadn’t been made clear.

Dollarschell said that once the determined number of horses are trapped, they’ll be brought to the Mesa County Sheriff’s Posse grounds and readied for adoption.

Several meeting attendees, many of whom are members of Friends of the Mustangs, expressed concern that the 45-day bait-and-trap period, scheduled to begin around Sept. 1, will happen during hunting season, when that area sees a lot of visitors. They worried that people unfamiliar with the gathering might scare horses away from the traps or generally disrupt the area.

To read the preliminary environmental assessment, go to http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/gjfo.html. Comments can be submitted via email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or to the Grand Junction Field Office, 2815 H Road, Grand Junction 81506. Comments should be submitted by July 17.



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