The Environmental Assessment for the Fish Creek Gather Plan considers the portion of the HMA on the south side of Highway 50, omitting 19,394 acres to the north. The AML for that parcel is ten.
The area of interest therefore covers 230,675 acres with an AML of 170, for an aimed-at population density of 0.7 animals per thousand acres. The target density across all HMAs is one animal per thousand acres (the land—27 million acres—can only support 27,000 wild horses and burros).
The plan allocates 2,040 AUMs per year to the Fish Creek horses (170 × 12).
The HMA intersects four grazing allotments. See Map 1 on page 4 of the EA and section 3.3 starting on page 66.
Information about livestock grazing is incomplete. The size of the allotments was not provided in the EA and the grazing season for two of them was omitted.
The plan allocates 8,855 AUMs per year to the four allotments, with an estimated 5,279 AUMs per year falling within the HMA. (An assumption here is that forage is uniformly distributed across the allotments. If the HMA contains 60% of an allotment, then it contributes 60% of its forage to livestock inside the HMA.)
If the weighted average grazing season is seven months (a guess), then 754 cow/calf pairs would be found in the HMA (5,279 ÷ 7). Sheep are also permitted in the HMA but results are based on cow/calf pairs, whose forage demand is said to be equivalent to that of wild horses.
The livestock density allowed by plan would be roughly 3.3 cow/calf pairs per thousand acres (754 ÷ 230,675 × 1,000).
These figures are presented in the following charts.
Together, the four allotments cover 417,000 acres (south side of Hwy 50). A seven month grazing season yields a total of 1,265 cow/calf pairs on those parcels, with a population density of 3.0 cow/calf pairs per thousand acres.
Are the horses being denied their fair share of the resources or were they forced to live in an area that is less desirable from a grazing viewpoint?
The current wild horse density is 3.6 animals per thousand acres, comparable to that of the livestock, but the roundup that starts in a few days will shift the numbers closer to those allowed by plan.
RELATED: Fish Creek Roundup Starts Next Week.