Excessive wild horse populations is a concern for area ranchers with grazing livestock in the Beaty Butte area, a topic that was discussed during September’s meeting of the Beaty Butte Grazing Association.
Lake County Commissioner Ken Kestner attended this meeting, held on Monday, Sept. 23, at the Adel Community Center, on behalf of the board.
Kestner said that the primary topic of discussion during the meeting pertained to high numbers of wild horses on BLM lands also utilized by grazing permittees that are well above the BLM’s herd management numbers.
The horses, permittees say, adversely impact the surrounding environment as well as serve as competition against permitted grazing each season.
Kestner said the BLM’s herd management numbers call for a maximum of about 250 head of wild horses, and the total population numbers in the last year were estimated at about 800.
The meeting largely served as an opportunity to discuss how to encourage the BLM to maintain its own management plan.
Kestner noted that the Lakeview BLM agency’s hands are tied in the matter due to a lack of necessary funding.
John Kiely, who with brother Tom operates the Kiely Brothers Ranch, noted that the impacts from excessive wild horse numbers are severe.
“It’s starting to hurt the resource out there,” he said. “It’s just too many horses out there for the resource.”
Kiely noted that the concerns raised by the association are not directed at the local Lakeview district BLM agency, but rather at the national level.
Ranchers understand that local BLM officials’ hands are tied on the matter, due to budgetary constraints.
Kiely estimated 3,500 cows are running in the area from the 10 Adel ranching families that are a part of the association.
The hope is to place more pressure locally as well as at the state and national levels to encourage increased management of the wild horse population.
Compounding the matter is a lack of sites for relocation, Kiely said, estimating 35,000 to 45,000 wild horses currently held in BLM holding pens.
If the issue is not addressed soon, Kiely said he fears that cows may have to be pulled from the area within the next couple of years as horse numbers continue to grow and competition issues increase.
The BLM has round-up and adoption programs in place for wild horses, but they are a costly element to the agency’s budget, Kestner said.
Compounding the issue is a lack of sites for relocation of the horses.
“It’s kind of an awkward no-win situation,” he said.