The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Winnemucca District, Black Rock Field Office has issued a Decision Record for an environmental assessment (EA) for the Jackson Mountains wild horse gather. The decision is issued in full force and effect to begin gathering 630 excess wild horses on June 8 because of drought conditions in the herd management area (HMA) which is about 60 miles northwest of Winnemucca, Nev., in Humboldt and Pershing counties.
“The BLM is closely monitoring the condition of the wild horses in the southern end of the Jackson Mountain HMA,” said District Manager Gene Seidlitz. “It is necessary for the health of the horses to get the excess animals off the range now before their condition worsens.”
“The BLM started hauling water to troughs last month,” Seidlitz added. “There is minimal to no green-up occurring on this year’s forge. The wild horses in the southern end of the HMA are foraging on last year’s cheatgrass and shrubs and their condition is declining.”
The estimated population is 930 wild horses, which includes the 2012 foal crop. The Appropriate Management Level (AML) for the Jackson Mountains HMA is 130 to 217 wild horses. This gather will not achieve the desired low AML of 130 wild horses on the range, and there will be two to three follow-up gathers over the next 10 years.
The Decision Record was issued in full force and effect, which means that although the gather was originally slated to start July 1, it will now start on June 8 due to an emergency situation in the HMA. The gather is considered an emergency because of persistent drought conditions in the HMA, which has put a large population of wild horses at risk, and the declining animal condition associated with minimal vegetation growth and availability of water. The body condition score of wild horses in the HMA overall is between a 2 (very thin) and 4 (moderately thin).
It is BLM policy to not conduct wild horse gathers during the foaling season, which is typically from March through June. The emergency gather will start one month before the end of the foaling season.
“The BLM is taking precautions during the gather to reduce heat stress and distances we move the animals,” said Seidlitz. “We are working closely with the contractor to ensure we are conducting the gather in the most humane manner possible. We care about these animals and we take seriously our responsibility to manage healthy herds of wild horses on the public lands.”
Within the HMA are several grazing allotments with
permitted livestock. Due to the drought conditions, voluntary changes in livestock management have occurred and the permittees have taken voluntary measures to delay turnout, reduce numbers, and adjust livestock operations. The permitted livestock have been removed from the southern use area of the HMA and Jackson Mountain Allotment (Trail Springs/DeLong Windmill).
Public lands within the HMA will be open to the public during the gather operations, subject to necessary safety restrictions. The public is welcome to attend the gather, and is encouraged to attend on Saturdays, when the media and public will have enhanced opportunities to view gather activities. The public is encouraged to check the gather hotline (775) 623-1541 for information about the next day’s meeting time, to RSVP to attend the gather and to hear any changes in the schedule. On Saturdays, visitors will have more opportunity to interact with BLM staff and could include escorted opportunities to observe the animals at the gather and holding corrals.
The gather will be conducted in close coordination with the Nevada Department of Agriculture’s (NDOA) Brands Division. The NDOA brand inspectors will verify that all gathered animals are wild horses and burros as defined by the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. Once verified, the brand inspector will provide the BLM a certificate to transport the animals.
Without NDOA’s cooperation and coordination, the BLM would not be able to remove the excess wild horses which, if not removed in a timely manner, would result in degradation of our native rangelands. The NDOA also may take jurisdiction of any estray, branded, or abandoned domestic horse(s) under the State of Nevada estray laws.
The gathered animals will be transported to the Palomino Valley Center near Reno, Nev., where they will be prepared for the BLM adoption program. Unadopted horses will be placed in long-term pastures where they will be humanly cared for and retain their “wild” status and protection under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. The BLM does not sell or send any horses to slaughter.
The Jackson Mountains Herd Management Area (HMA) is approximately 283,000 acres in size. This is considered the primary gather area, although the total gather area is approximately 775,000 acres to encompass wild horses residing in non-HMA areas in their search for water, forage and space.
The Jackson Mountains gather and impacts are described and analyzed in the EA, which is available online at the Winnemucca District website: www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/fo/wfo.html. The BLM will also provide updates and information on the website on a regular basis throughout the course of the gather.