HomeSITLA Files Lawsuit to Protect School Trust Lands from Wild Horse Populations

SITLA Files Lawsuit to Protect School Trust Lands from Wild Horse Populations

The Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Interior and Utah Bureau of Land Management (BLM) asking the BLM to comply with the federal Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and remove wild horse populations from select school trust lands in Emery, Iron, and Beaver counties. Federal law requires the BLM to remove wild horses from non-public lands, including trust lands, at the request of the landowner or manager. In addition to the federal law, the BLM itself set a zero population limit for one region known as the Blawn Wash Management Area, after it was transferred to SITLA in 2001. As fiduciary of land holdings for public schools, SITLA filed the lawsuit to prevent further degradation of rangelands under its management. In its lawsuit, SITLA presented photographic documentation showing extreme levels of degradation by wild horses, which have substantially reduced domestic grazing capacities on school trust lands. Damage to these rangeland resources have negatively impacted SITLA grazing permittees, who have been forced to either greatly reduce their herds or withdraw from use completely. Damage to rangelands by wild horses has been compounded through years of drought. Dwindling grazing capacities also impact the livelihoods of individual ranchers and negatively affect local rural economies. The damage also impacts SITLA’s contributions to the Permanent School Fund. The Administration generated $1.06 million in grazing revenues for its beneficiaries during the last fiscal year. Prior to the lawsuit, SITLA, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and its grazing permittees, cooperatively invested in several rangeland improvement projects, including reseeding efforts. Benefits from these improvements have been substantially compromised due to damage caused by wild horses.

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