Sand Springs Wild Horses Get Short End of Stick

Sand Springs is the third and final HMA in the Barren Valley Complex, an area subject to wild horse management actions per the Decision Record dated June 9.

The number of wild horses and privately owned livestock on the HMA vary with time and rangeland conditions but resource allocations don’t change that much.  What do they reveal about the attitudes and beliefs of those who wrote them?

The management plan allows 200 wild horses on 192,524 acres per Section 1.2 of the Final EA.  The current wild horse population is 422.

The forage requirement for horses is 200 × 12 = 2,400 AUMs per year.  The stocking rate allowed by plan is 200 ÷ 192,524 × 1,000 = 1.0 wild horses per thousand acres and the number of excess horses on the HMA is 422 – 200 = 222.

Like Sheepshead, Sand Springs does not have a fractional stocking rate, so the proportion of forage diverted to livestock may not be as large as Coyote Lake.

The HMA intersects one grazing allotment.  Table 6 in the EA provides the allotment size, permitted forage and grazing season.  Few calculations are required.  The forage budget was converted to cow/calf pairs, as their resource requirements are said to be equivalent to those of wild horses.

The HMA is not 100% subject to permitted grazing but close.  The forage available to livestock inside the HMA is 6,314 AUMs per year.

Sand Springs Calcs-1

The Saddle Butte ranchers would have to place 1,263 cow/calf pairs inside the HMA to graze off 6,314 AUMs in five months (6,314 ÷ 5).  The stocking rate allowed by plan is 6.8 cow/calf pairs per thousand acres (1,263 ÷ 185,636 × 1,000).

These management indicators are compared in the following charts.

Sand Springs Charts-1

The management plan allocates 2.6 times as much forage to domestic livestock as it does for wild horses, on land set aside for the horses.  The plan allows over six times as many cow/calf pairs per thousand acres as it does for horses.

Wild horses were not a priority when the plan was written.  The “principally but not exclusively” clause of the WHB Act was ignored.

The forage assigned to livestock would support an additional 526 horses (6,314 ÷ 12), for a new AML of 726 (200 + 526).

There are no excess horses on the HMA (222 < 526).  Carrying capacity has not been exceeded.  So what is the rationale for roundups and contraceptives?

RELATED: Barren Valley Gather EA Comes and Goes, No News Release.

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