SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's wild horse and burro population would be best served under the oversight of the state, not the federal government, according to a resolution that received enthusiastic endorsement Thursday by a legislative committee.
SJR7, sponsored by Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, urges Congress to convey authority to Utah to manage wild horses and burros and directs the establishment of programs should that occur.
Vickers said the resolution sends a strong message that Utah is better equipped to handle issues of overpopulation and range degradation — problems that supporters of the effort contend have been ignored by the Bureau of Land Management.
"As many are aware, we have had a real serious problem with the wild horse and burro situation, especially in the area I represent where they are over-proliferated to the point that they have overrun the range," he said.
Vickers' comments were echoed by Dave Miller and Mark Whitney, commissioners from Iron and Beaver counties, who pressed their case to Washington, D.C., last spring, pleading for action from the BLM.
"We did everything we could. We took this up to the highest levels of the BLM, and even at the highest levels, we could not get anywhere. This absolutely is a congressional issue, one that requires management," Miller said.
Vickers stressed that the resolution is a companion to legislation being run in Congress by Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, that puts management of the program in Utah hands.
Several years of drought, combined with lack of federal funding and full holding pens at a national level, have created a firestorm of challenges for the BLM and frustration for local ranchers and land managers.
Beaver and Iron counties are part of a lawsuit filed against the federal government demanding action. Kevin Carter, executive director of the Utah school trust lands administration, said the agency has been forced to file a suit this week urging resolution.