South Steens Wild Horses Get Short End of Stick

A recent wild horse video from the South Steens HMA ends with this remark:

Ask lawmakers to manage wild horses and burros naturally IN THE WILD with minimally invasive tools: The least invasive, least deadly, least costly—wild mare contraception So we can continue to follow their wild journeys and maintain genetic health and diversity as Nature intends

Stalking wild horses with darting rifles is not what nature intends.  Picking and choosing who will have offspring is not what nature intends.  Sterilization, abscesses, declining herd sizes and abnormal sex ratios, with continued effects years after the treatments are stopped, are not what nature intends.

Managing HMAs primarily for livestock is not what Velma intended.

The HMA covers 134,491 acres in southeastern Oregon and has an AML of 304.

The horses allowed by plan require 3,648 AUMs per year.  The stocking rate allowed by plan is 2.3 horses per thousand acres.

The HMA intersects three grazing allotments.  Table 9 in the Final EA for wild horse management actions provides allotment sizes, grazing seasons and permitted AUMs.

Livestock numbers and forage requirements are based on cow/calf pairs, for a direct comparison to horses.  The resource requirements of wild horses and cow/calf pairs are said to be equivalent.

South Steens HMA Calcs-1

The forage available to the Frazier Field permittee inside the HMA is .24 × 1,906 = 457 AUMs per year, assuming the resource is evenly distributed across the parcel.  The other forage amounts were computed the same way.  The total estimated forage available to livestock inside the HMA is 10,299 AUMs per year, compared to 3,648 AUMs per year for the horses.

The Frazier Field permittee would have to place 76 cow/calf pairs inside the HMA to graze off 457 AUMs in six months (457 ÷ 6).  The total estimated number of cow/calf pairs allowed by plan inside the HMA is 1,482, compared to 304 horses.  The weighted average grazing season is 6.9 months per year (10,299 ÷ 1,482).

The total estimated land available to livestock inside the HMA is 106,040 acres, computed the same way as forage.  Approximately 79% of the HMA is subject to permitted livestock grazing.

The stocking rate allowed by plan is 14 cow/calf pairs per thousand acres (1,482 ÷ 106,040 × 1,000), compared to 2.3 wild horses per thousand acres.

These management indicators are presented in the following charts.

South Steens HMA Charts-1

The HMA is managed primarily for livestock, with the horses receiving just 26% of the authorized forage.

The current population, thought to be 1,179, yields a stocking rate of 8.8 wild horses per thousand acres.  If they are destroying their habitat at those numbers, what do suppose is happening when livestock are turned out at a rate that’s almost twice as high?

The forage allocated to livestock would support an additional 858 horses, for a true AML of 1,162.  That means there are currently 17 excess horses on the HMA, not much justification for a fertility control program.

The statement at the end of the video makes sense if you believe the overpopulation narrative and/or want these areas managed primarily for livestock.

RELATED: South Steens Roundup Starts Next Week.

Cattle and Horses

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