SALT LAKE CITY — The Bureau of Land Management in Utah is hosting a public hearing at the West Desert District Office to discuss the use of helicopters and motorized vehicles in the management of wild horses and burros on the state's public lands.

The hearing is at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at 2370 S. 2300 West, where public comments will be solicited as part of an annual federal requirement.

"Using helicopters and other advanced equipment is crucial in our efficiency and maintaining safety in wild horse management," said Jared Redington, the BLM's Salt Lake Wild Horse and Burro Facility manager. "We have found the use of helicopters is the most humane method in gathering horses from the open range and remote mountain areas where they live."

Utah's wild horse population is about 2,700, but drought conditions and increased wild horse numbers cause limited forage and water availability, which reduces the number of animals that can be supported on the land, the agency said. BLM Utah gathers an average of 300 to 400 horses annually from public lands to help control horse populations.

This year's "excess" populations will be gathered from various herd areas across the state in August.

The BLM has removed more than 14,000 wild horses and 500 burros from Utah's rangelands since government roundups began in 1975.

Just last month, a federal district judge dismissed a controversial lawsuit that sought to stop a planned roundup of 2,500 wild horses from the Calico management area in Nevada. Bought in part by In Defense of Animals, the lawsuit also sought to halt the "warehousing" of captured horses in the Midwest ,where the federal agency sends animals that are not adopted, for long-term holding.

The groups that brought the lawsuit say it was dismissed because the judge said they lacked standing, not because of the merits of the complaint.

Of the horses Utah has captured, 6,700 have been adopted locally, while the remainder have been sent to the East for adoptions, the agency said.

For additional information about the public hearing, contact Redington at 801-561-4632 or the BLM Utah State Office at 801-539-4057.

e-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com