Mustangs and the public land they use have generated controversy recently in Salt Lake City.
A fundraiser was held Tuesday night in Salt Lake City to raise awareness about mustangs and the dangers they face. Sonya Richins, president of SaveTheWildMustangs.com, organized the event.
“We’re trying to save the wild horses of the United States,” Richins said. “There’s only less than 15,000 wild horses left in the wild, and in July the BLM government has scheduled a couple of roundups for 8,000-10,000 horses to be removed from our wild lands. If they do that, they’ll literally manage the wild horses to extinction and we will not have wild horses anymore.”
The Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency charged with setting and maintaining an appropriate population of wild horses on public land, places the number of wild horses much higher, at around 38,500, according to their website www.blm.gov.
Furthermore, the BLM website states the government agency is only “seeking to achieve the appropriate management level of 26,600 wild horses and burros on Western public rangelands, or nearly 12,000 fewer than the current West-wide population.”
The fundraiser featured music by local country/classic rock band Sage Junction, as well as a silent auction which featured a variety of items from paintings to quilts to detailing cars.
Everything for auction was donated by members of the community interested in preserving wild mustangs, said Kelli McFall, head of public relations at SaveTheWildMustangs.com.
One of the more poignant points of the fundraiser was the screenings of Richins’ documentary “Mestengo.” Three years in the making, the 26-minute film highlights the historical significance of the mustang in American history and the cruelties wild horses face after being gathered in from the wild.
A major argument in favor of rounding up mustangs from the wild is the damage and degradation they do to grazing land needed for cattle. However, Richins argues in her documentary that roaming mustang herds actually degrade rangeland less than cattle, which outnumber the horses by 400 to 1.
“I always loved horses,” she said. “When I heard this was going on with wild horses, I knew that I had to do something.”
Four months in the works, the event saw a steady stream of donors attend throughout the evening.
Chet Cannon, who attended University of Utah and starred in MTV’s 2009 season of “The Real World,” also came to the event.
“It’s depressing,” he said. “They deserve so much more than that.”