Helicopters will be flying over the Lost Creek HMA, one of five HMAs in the Red Desert Complex, any day now. Their mission is to enforce the resource allocations of the Rawlins RMP.
The HMA covers 251,000 acres in central Wyoming and has an AML of 82. The horses require 984 AUMs per year and the stocking rate allowed by plan is 0.3 wild horses per thousand acres.
What do these numbers tell you about the way the HMA is managed? The fractional stocking rate may indicate large amounts of forage diverted to livestock.
The HMA intersects one allotment according to Map 2 in the Final EA for wild horse management actions in the Complex. The allotment extends into the Antelope Hills HMA but the EA does not provide the percentage in each.
Western Horse Watchers estimates that it’s one part in Antelope Hills and five parts in Lost Creek, or 83% in Lost Creek. The estimated size of the allotment is 251,000 ÷ .83 = 302,410 acres. Both HMAs are 100% subject to permitted grazing.
Table 5 in the EA provides the grazing season and permitted AUMs. Although cattle and sheep are allowed on the allotment, the calculations are based on cow/calf pairs only, for a direct comparison to wild horses. The resource requirements of cow/calf pairs and wild horses are said to be equivalent.
The forage available to livestock inside the HMA is .83 × 27,292 = 22,652 AUMs per year, assuming the resource is evenly distributed across the parcel.
The Cyclone Rim permittees would have to place 3,539 cow/calf pairs inside the HMA to graze off 22,652 AUMs in 6.4 months. The stocking rate allowed by plan is 3,539 ÷ 251,000 × 1,000 = 14.1 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 just four percent of the total authorized forage (excluding wildlife). The HMA doesn’t have a Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) but if it did do you think you could revise it independently of the RMP?
The pre-gather population in the HMA, thought to be around 4X AML (per the news release for the Complex), would include 246 excess horses, so the need for a roundup, along with other population controls, is obvious.
However, the forage assigned to livestock would support an additional 1,888 horses, for a true AML of 1,970. There are no excess horses in the HMA, the roundup is not needed and there is no justification for a fertility control program.