The Red Desert roundup begins this week, affecting five HMAs. The news release said the current wild horse population in the Complex is approximately 3,000, compared to a total AML of 724.
If each HMA is at 4X AML, the need for this and other management actions, such as fertility control, is obvious.
The operation was originally authorized in 2016 but the supporting documents were revised in 2017. Data in the Final EA are not sufficient for a report on the entire Complex but do allow reports for a few of the HMAs.
The Stewart Creek HMA covers 168,000 acres and has an AML of 175. The horses allowed by plan require 2,100 AUMs per year and the stocking rate is approximately one wild horse per thousand acres, in line with the average rate across all HMAs.
The HMA intersects one allotment, shown in white on the following map. The EA states on page 54 (page 58 in the pdf) that the allotment boundary is similar to the HMA boundary except the allotment includes about 5,000 acres outside the HMA. Thus, the estimated size of the allotment is 173,000 acres.
Table 5 in the EA provides the grazing season and authorized forage. Livestock calculations are based on cow/calf pairs for a direct comparison to wild horses. The resource requirements of wild horses and cow/calf pairs are said to be equivalent.
The portion of the allotment inside the HMA is 168,000 ÷ 173,000 = .971.
The estimated forage available to livestock inside the HMA is 8,138 AUMs per year, assuming the resource is evenly distributed across the parcel (97.1% of 8,380).
The Stewart Creek permittees would have to place 1,292 cow/calf pairs inside the HMA to graze off 8,138 AUMs in 6.3 months. The stocking rate would be 7.7 cow/calf pairs per thousand acres.
These management indicators are compared in the following charts.
The HMA is managed primarily for livestock, with the horses receiving 21% of the total authorized forage (excluding wildlife).
If the HMA is at 4X AML, the pre-gather population of 700 would include 525 excess horses and the area would be classified as ‘overpopulated.’.
However, the forage assigned to livestock would support an additional 678 wild horses, for a true AML of 853. There are no excess horses in the HMA, there is no need for a roundup and there is no justification for a fertility control program.