Comments Invited on Draft EA for Surprise Complex

BLM announced today the release of a preliminary environmental assessment for wild horse and burro management actions in the Surprise Complex over a ten year period.

Six HMAs in northwestern Nevada are affected: Massacre Lakes, Bitner, Nut Mountain, Wall Canyon, High Rock and Fox Hog.  They are managed by the Applegate Field Office in California.

An environmental assessment looks at the consequences of a proposed action, along with those of one or more alternatives.  Alternative 1, the Proposed Action, includes roundups, fertility control and sex ratio skewing.  Refer to Section 2.2.3 in the EA.

The Complex covers 396,674 acres and has a combined AML of 496 horses.  Although burros have been observed in the Complex, the AML for them is zero.  The stocking rate allowed by plan is 1.3 wild horses per thousand acres.

Surprise Complex Map

The Complex intersects six grazing allotments.  Table 3-2 gives the total authorized forage but does not show how much of it falls inside the Complex.  That would be a substantive comment.

Western Horse Watchers estimates that 80% of the allotment acreage falls inside the six HMAs, based on the map in Appendix G.  If forage is evenly distributed across those parcels, then roughly 24,500 AUMs per year have been allocated to cattle inside the Complex, compared to 6,000 AUMs per year for the horses.

The Complex is managed primarily for livestock.

The forage assigned to cattle would support an additional 2,000 horses, for a true AML of 2,500.  The current population, thought to be around 1,300 wild horses and burros according to the news release, is well within that range.

Comments will be accepted through February 14.

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