Mustang Monument: Pricey Is an Understatement

Cost per night is $2,650, double occupancy, according to an article published today by Forbes.  Keep in mind it’s a travel column, not a wild horse column.

Madeleine Pickens purchased base properties in eastern Nevada, giving her grazing preference to hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands, on which she would place 30,000 wild horses rescued from government pens.

At first the BLM supported the idea but later opposed it.  Refer to this report by KLAS News for some background on the project.

RELATED: Intrigue at Spruce-Pequop HMA.

Oregon Wild Horse Group Sues Crook County Commission

The Central Oregon Wild Horse Coalition has sued the Crook County Commission for holding a series of meetings in May to comment on proposed changes to the Big Summit Wild Horse Management Plan without giving proper notification of the meetings, according to a brief published this morning by Courthouse News Service.

Commissioners sent a letter to the Forest Service advocating for Alternative 2 in the EA, which would reduce the AML on the WHT, arguing that the other two alternatives would allow a “downward trend … in forage availability,” leading to a “significant reduction or exclusion of wildlife and permitted livestock grazing from the Territory.”

The three-page letter, dated May 14, appears as Exhibit 1 at the end of the court filing.

RELATED: Comments Invited on Changes to Big Summit Management Plan.

Range Creek Roundup Over?

The daily reports ended July 6, with 148 wild horses removed from their home range.

No deaths were reported.

The number of horses removed was about 18% higher than originally planned.

The number of foals captured on July 3 was not given.  If you deduct that day’s results from the total, foals represented about 22% of the horses captured.

Body condition scores were threes and fours, not what you’d expect for an area that’s overpopulated.

RELATED: Range Creek Roundup Starts Next Week.

No More Overflowing Tanks

The fill valves hang over the rims of the tanks but the mustangs can flip them out of the water, as seen in this video, wasting a critical resource.

They are now held in place by wood blocks that were attached to the rims with carriage bolts and wing nuts.

In case you did not know, the eleventh commandment on the high desert is “Thou shalt not put thy well to the test.”  You don’t buy land in this area with visions of high-tech irrigation systems and lush green lawns!

No More Overflowing Tanks

AEA Pushes WH Darting Machine

Another press release appeared last week, provided by American Equine Awareness, touting the benefits of the contraption, which can deliver contraceptives to free-roaming horses without human involvement, except to restock the bait and pesticides.

Whose side are they on?

These animals are being forced off their home range because most of their food has been sold to public-lands ranchers, not because they’re overpopulated.

Those who want herd sizes reduced, by roundups, fertility control or any other method, are allies of the ranchers.  Don’t give them a penny!

RELATED: Who Invented the Wild Horse Darting Machine?

PSA 12-07-19

Confusion Wild Horses Get Short End of Stick

The Rule of 5 says the HMA should be able to support 5 × 115 = 575 wild horses, not 115, with 460 horses denied a spot on their home range according to the Rule of 4.  Let’s see how those estimates compare to figures determined the hard way.

The management plan allows 115 horses in an area covering 235,005 acres.

The stocking rate allowed by plan is 0.5 wild horses per thousand acres and the forage requirement is 115 × 12 = 1,380 AUMs per year.  Recall from the post in April that fractional stocking rates may indicate large amounts of forage diverted to livestock.

The HMA intersects five grazing allotments per Section 3.2.1 of the draft environmental assessment for management actions on the HMA.  All of the land is subject to permitted grazing.  A map in Appendix D shows the arrangement.

Allotment data can be found in Table 3a of the EA.  Although cattle and sheep are permitted, the livestock calculations pertain to cow/calf pairs only, as their resource requirements are said to be equivalent to those of wild horses.

The total estimated forage available to livestock inside the HMA is the sum of the forage amounts contributed by each allotment.  For example, 78% of the HMA lies within the Thousand Peaks allotment, which is 183,304 acres (.78 × 235,005).  The forage contributed by that allotment would be 6,785 AUMs per year (183,304 ÷ 332,022 × 12,289), assuming the resource is evenly distributed across the parcel.

The sum of these forage contributions is 9,805 AUMs per year.  The number of cow/calf pairs that each contribution can support is equal to the forage amount divided by the grazing season.  The Thousand Peaks ranchers would have to place 969 cow/calf pairs inside the HMA to graze off 6,785 AUMs in seven months.

Confusion Calcs-1

The total estimated number of cow/calf pairs inside the HMA is 1,470, with a weighted average grazing season of 6.7 months (9,805 ÷ 1,470).

The estimated stocking rate allowed by plan is therefore 6.3 cow/calf pairs per thousand acres (1,470 ÷ 235,005 × 1,000).  The stocking rates on individual allotments range from 5.3 to 12.6 cow/calf pairs per thousand acres.

These management indicators are compared in the following charts.

Confusion Charts-1

The forage assigned to livestock would support an additional 817 horses (9,805 ÷ 12), for a new AML of 932 (115 + 817).  Both figures are larger than those estimated above by the Rule of 4 and Rule of 5.

The current population is thought to be around 550 wild horses, almost five times higher than AML but well within the capacity of the land to support them (550 < 932).

Roundups are symptoms, not causes.  The Confusion wild horses will be forced off their home range not because there are too many of them but because the management plan gives priority to privately owned livestock, contrary to the original statute.

Management actions, such as roundups and fertility control, won’t occur until the EA is finalized, a Finding of No Significant Impact is issued and a Decision Record is signed.

RELATED: Comments Invited on Confusion Wild Horse Gather EA.

Barren Valley Gather EA Comes and Goes, No News Release

The Decision Record, dated June 9, says this about public notification:

The EA was posted to BLM’s ePlanning website and a notice of availability of the EA was mailed to 70 interested individuals, groups, and agencies on April 17, 2020, for a 30-day public comment period.  In addition, a notice was posted in the Malheur Enterprise and Argus Observer newspapers.

However, the project was not announced on the BLM news site, unlike this recent EA for management actions on the Confusion HMA.

Looks like Western Horse Watchers isn’t in the club.

The Barren Valley Complex represents three HMAs in southeast Oregon, according to the final EA, which are managed together because wild horses routinely move between them: Coyote Lake-Alvord-Tule Springs, Sheepshead-Heath Creek and Sand Springs.

Barren Valley Map-1

On Coyote Lake, 390 wild horses are allowed by plan, with a forage demand of 4,680 AUMs per year.  Privately owned livestock receive an estimated 13,421 AUMs per year.

The management plan for Sheepshead allows 302 wild horses, with a forage allocation of 3,624 AUMs per year.  Livestock receive an estimated 7,276 AUMs per year.

At Sand Springs, the 200 wild horses allowed by plan require 2,400 AUMs per year, while livestock receive an estimated 6,314 AUMs per year.

The wild horse population in June 2019 was thought to be 1,590 adults and 325 foals.

The forage diverted to livestock could support an additional 2,250 horses across the three HMAs.  The combined AML could increase from 892 to 3,142.  The problem is public-lands ranching, not overpopulation.

Although the project is complete, gather dates have not been announced.

Then again, maybe they have.

Thriving Ecological Balance-3

Warm Springs Horses Won’t Be Returned to Range

Fifty five wild horses removed from the Warm Springs HMA in October 2018, but slated to be returned, won’t be released, according to a Decision Record dated 12-10-19.

Eleven older horses were returned on 10-30-19.

The roundup yielded 845 horses, 2 mules and 41 burros.  Some of the mares were to become test subjects for spay research at the off-range corrals in Hines, OR.

The decision was not announced at the BLM news site.

RELATED: Warm Springs Horses Get Short End of Stick.

DNA Testing of Currituck Wild Horses Underway

A story posted this morning by The News & Observer of Raleigh, NC said that mass testing has begun, with the goal of identifying the lineage of every horse on the island.

How are they obtaining genetic material from free-roaming horses?  Darts.

The results will be used to manage breeding, according to the report.

With this much human involvement, are the horses really wild?

Don’t forget the fertility control program.

Kiger Scoping Period Comes and Goes, No News Release

The scoping period for management actions on the Kiger and Riddle Mountain HMAs began on January 28 and ended on February 29.  The project was not announced on the BLM news site.

The scoping letter gave recipients an opportunity to provide input on a new population management plan for the HMAs.

The next step in the process is to draft an environmental assessment for the plan.