Mustang Monument: Pricey Is an Understatement

Cost per night is $2,650, double occupancy, according to an article published today by Forbes.  Keep in mind it’s a travel column, not a wild horse column.

Madeleine Pickens purchased base properties in eastern Nevada, giving her grazing preference to hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands, on which she would place 30,000 wild horses rescued from government pens.

At first the BLM supported the idea but later opposed it.  Refer to this report by KLAS News for some background on the project.

RELATED: Intrigue at Spruce-Pequop HMA.

Oregon Wild Horse Group Sues Crook County Commission

The Central Oregon Wild Horse Coalition has sued the Crook County Commission for holding a series of meetings in May to comment on proposed changes to the Big Summit Wild Horse Management Plan without giving proper notification of the meetings, according to a brief published this morning by Courthouse News Service.

Commissioners sent a letter to the Forest Service advocating for Alternative 2 in the EA, which would reduce the AML on the WHT, arguing that the other two alternatives would allow a “downward trend … in forage availability,” leading to a “significant reduction or exclusion of wildlife and permitted livestock grazing from the Territory.”

The three-page letter, dated May 14, appears as Exhibit 1 at the end of the court filing.

RELATED: Comments Invited on Changes to Big Summit Management Plan.

Range Creek Roundup Over?

The daily reports ended July 6, with 148 wild horses removed from their home range.

No deaths were reported.

The number of horses removed was about 18% higher than originally planned.

The number of foals captured on July 3 was not given.  If you deduct that day’s results from the total, foals represented about 22% of the horses captured.

Body condition scores were threes and fours, not what you’d expect for an area that’s overpopulated.

RELATED: Range Creek Roundup Starts Next Week.

Montana Grazing Fees

A draft environmental assessment for livestock grazing on the Pumpkin Creek allotment shows average grazing fees of $12.92 per AUM on state-owned lands and $26.50 per AUM on private lands.  See page 26 in the EA (page 30 in the pdf).

The fee on BLM lands is $1.35 per AUM, about 5% of the going rate on private lands.

The government pays about $60 per AUM for wild horses in long-term holding.

The allotment is about 15 miles south of Miles City in the eastern part of the state, according to a news release issued yesterday.

No More Overflowing Tanks

The fill valves hang over the rims of the tanks but the mustangs can flip them out of the water, as seen in this video, wasting a critical resource.

They are now held in place by wood blocks that were attached to the rims with carriage bolts and wing nuts.

In case you did not know, the eleventh commandment on the high desert is “Thou shalt not put thy well to the test.”  You don’t buy land in this area with visions of high-tech irrigation systems and lush green lawns!

No More Overflowing Tanks

Review of New WH Population Control Plan Almost Complete?

The plan was issued on May 8.  Congress had sixty days to review it.  That period ends tomorrow.  Legislators authorized $21 million in FY 2020 to implement the first part of the rancher-friendly ‘Path Forward’ but only after the BLM “submits a comprehensive and detailed plan for an aggressive, non-lethal population control strategy.”

RELATED: Strategy for Implementing ‘Path Forward’ Sent to Congress.

AEA Pushes WH Darting Machine

Another press release appeared last week, provided by American Equine Awareness, touting the benefits of the contraption, which can deliver contraceptives to free-roaming horses without human involvement, except to restock the bait and pesticides.

Whose side are they on?

These animals are being forced off their home range because most of their food has been sold to public-lands ranchers, not because they’re overpopulated.

Those who want herd sizes reduced, by roundups, fertility control or any other method, are allies of the ranchers.  Don’t give them a penny!

RELATED: Who Invented the Wild Horse Darting Machine?

PSA 12-07-19

Stop the [Causes of] Roundups!

If you read environmental assessments for management actions on HMAs, you may have seen statements like this:

The elimination of livestock grazing in an area would require an amendment to the RMP.  Changes to grazing cannot be made through a wild horse gather decision.

Roundups, fertility control, sex ratio skewing and sterilization are products of a decision making process that determines the use of public lands.

Those decisions are influenced by other standards, such as the No Rancher Left Behind Act of 1976, as well as the beliefs and loyalties of those involved.

Adoptions, training programs and sanctuaries are too far downstream in the process to be of any use to the horses and burros still on the range.

They are symptoms, not causes.

How far upstream in the process would you have to go to bring about the desired change?  How often do Resource Management Plans come up for review?  What type of safeguards are protecting them?

RELATED: Stop the Roundups, Fertility Control is Better!

Thriving Ecological Balance-3

Confusion Wild Horses Get Short End of Stick

The Rule of 5 says the HMA should be able to support 5 × 115 = 575 wild horses, not 115, with 460 horses denied a spot on their home range according to the Rule of 4.  Let’s see how those estimates compare to figures determined the hard way.

The management plan allows 115 horses in an area covering 235,005 acres.

The stocking rate allowed by plan is 0.5 wild horses per thousand acres and the forage requirement is 115 × 12 = 1,380 AUMs per year.  Recall from the post in April that fractional stocking rates may indicate large amounts of forage diverted to livestock.

The HMA intersects five grazing allotments per Section 3.2.1 of the draft environmental assessment for management actions on the HMA.  All of the land is subject to permitted grazing.  A map in Appendix D shows the arrangement.

Allotment data can be found in Table 3a of the EA.  Although cattle and sheep are permitted, the livestock calculations pertain to cow/calf pairs only, as their resource requirements are said to be equivalent to those of wild horses.

The total estimated forage available to livestock inside the HMA is the sum of the forage amounts contributed by each allotment.  For example, 78% of the HMA lies within the Thousand Peaks allotment, which is 183,304 acres (.78 × 235,005).  The forage contributed by that allotment would be 6,785 AUMs per year (183,304 ÷ 332,022 × 12,289), assuming the resource is evenly distributed across the parcel.

The sum of these forage contributions is 9,805 AUMs per year.  The number of cow/calf pairs that each contribution can support is equal to the forage amount divided by the grazing season.  The Thousand Peaks ranchers would have to place 969 cow/calf pairs inside the HMA to graze off 6,785 AUMs in seven months.

Confusion Calcs-1

The total estimated number of cow/calf pairs inside the HMA is 1,470, with a weighted average grazing season of 6.7 months (9,805 ÷ 1,470).

The estimated stocking rate allowed by plan is therefore 6.3 cow/calf pairs per thousand acres (1,470 ÷ 235,005 × 1,000).  The stocking rates on individual allotments range from 5.3 to 12.6 cow/calf pairs per thousand acres.

These management indicators are compared in the following charts.

Confusion Charts-1

The forage assigned to livestock would support an additional 817 horses (9,805 ÷ 12), for a new AML of 932 (115 + 817).  Both figures are larger than those estimated above by the Rule of 4 and Rule of 5.

The current population is thought to be around 550 wild horses, almost five times higher than AML but well within the capacity of the land to support them (550 < 932).

Roundups are symptoms, not causes.  The Confusion wild horses will be forced off their home range not because there are too many of them but because the management plan gives priority to privately owned livestock, contrary to the original statute.

Management actions, such as roundups and fertility control, won’t occur until the EA is finalized, a Finding of No Significant Impact is issued and a Decision Record is signed.

RELATED: Comments Invited on Confusion Wild Horse Gather EA.