A looming federal roundup of cattle in Clark County has become a rallying cry for a Utah county with its own beef with the BLM.
Officials in Iron County, Utah, sent notice early this week that if the Bureau of Land Management goes ahead with plans to round up so-called “trespass cattle” 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, they immediately will move to reduce wild horse populations they say the agency has left to grow out of control.
“This is not a threat. This is a plan of action,” the notice said.
Iron County Commissioner Dave Miller said his county has tried for at least 15 years to get the BLM to cut the number of wild horses on public land there, but the agency keeps saying it lacks the resources to address the problem. If the bureau can afford to spend several million dollars “rustling up” a Nevada rancher’s private property, surely it must have the money to meet its own responsibility to manage wild horses and burros.
“Basically we’re just calling out the hypocrisy,” Miller said.
The notice was sent Sunday to Nevada BLM director Amy Lueders and the agency’s national director, Neil Kornze.
BLM officials in Nevada could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
Miller said approximately 1,200 wild horses now roam western Iron County, but the BLM itself has said there should only be about 300 animals there.
But while the bureau has done little to control the horse population, it has called on ranchers using the same federal land to trim their herds by as much as half to protect range conditions, Miller said.
The notice from Iron County said that the sheriff, his deputies “and other authorized agents” will be ordered to “take necessary means to reduce numbers of feral horses” within the county. It does not specify how that might be done.
Miller wouldn’t say either, but he did say that officials in nearby Beaver County, Utah, had prepared a similar notice for the BLM.
Word of the ultimatum drew a positive response from Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins, whose district includes the federal land where rancher Cliven Bundy has been grazing cattle for 20 years without permit or payment, prompting the BLM’s looming roundup.
In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Collins said he supports Iron County’s action so long as the horses are “gathered without harm.”
“If the U.S. BLM is going to gather trespass animals, it should start with the trespass and excess animals it is responsible for managing first,” Collins said.
Iron County is home to Brian Head Ski Resort, Cedar City and the Utah Shakespeare Festival. About 50,000 people live in the county. Miller estimated that 60 percent of all the land is under federal control, including roughly 2 million acres managed by the BLM.
Contact reporter Henry Brean at email@example.com or 702-383-0350. Follow him on Twitter at @RefriedBrean.