The Uintah Animal Control and Shelter Special Service District announced Monday that they will be conducting periodic drives and gathers “to reduce the growing number of estray, abandoned and/or nuisance horses living on open range in specific areas of the county.” The Uintah County Commission approved an executive order on December 9th directing the District to gather the horses within the project area. In order to comply with the order the District plans to conduct periodic drives and gathers from January 6th through April 1st. The project area stretches from the Colorado-Utah state line to the border with Ute Tribal lands and from the White River in the south area of Uintah County to the Green River in the north. “It is important to note that these horses are estray, abandoned and/or nuisance domestic livestock,” shares Monday’s announcement. “They are not ‘wild horses.’ Currently there are an estimated 300 to 500 estray, abandoned and/ or nuisance horses in the project area. Left unmanaged, this population could double in size in as few as four years. The existing population has already reduced water availability in the area and damaged native plant communities. These negative impacts on rangeland health pose a grave threat to indigenous wildlife in the area and also put the current and future well-being of the horses in jeopardy.” While there used to exist wild horses in this area, the Bureau of Land Management gathered the herd in November 2001 and “zeroed” out the area making all estray, abandoned and/or nuisance horses under the jurisdiction of Uintah County. The District’s executive director Christina Williams will serve as the project leader. The project will hire a licensed, insured horse gathering company to use helicopters to humanely round up the animals into temporary holding pens. All unclaimed horses will be transported to the District’s livestock pens where they will be held, advertised, and sold according to state of Utah protocol. It’s possible more drives will take place starting again in July.