Questions and Answers
Q. Why is the BLM gathering the Jackson Mountains Herd Management Area?
A. BLM has determined that 800 excess wild horses (adults and foals) are currently present within the Jackson Mountains gather area and need to be removed in order to be in compliance with the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. This assessment is based on:
- A population survey conducted in early April 2012 revealed approximately 740 adult wild horses in the Jackson Mountains Herd Management Area (HMA) gather area; with the expected 2012 foal crop this equates to approximately 930 horses, which is 800 wild horses in excess of the low Appropriate Management Level (AML) or 713 wild horses in excess of the high AML. The AML for the Jackson Mountains HMA was established as a population range of 130-217 wild horses;
- Wild horses have moved outside the designated boundaries of the Jackson Mountains HMA onto private and public lands in search of forage, water and space;
- Water is a very limited resource within the HMA; water becomes a limiting factor when horse populations exceed high AML. There are several springs and seeps in the HMA, but available water is unreliable and often unavailable as springs/seeps recharge from past years of drought. Range improvements are present in the HMA but many are insufficient for the numbers of horses;
- The District staff has been hauling water to drought-stricken areas to ensure the health of the wild horses;
- The proposed gather and associated management actions, is anticipated to return the wild horse population size to within the appropriate management level (i.e. 130-217 wild horses), in order to restore a thriving natural ecological balance, and to sustain healthy rangeland resources.
Q. The Decision Record for the Jackson Mountains Wild Horse Gather was issued in “full force and effect.” What does that mean?
A. The Decision Record was issued in full force and effect on June 7, which means that although the gather was originally scheduled to start July 1, it will now start June 8 due to an emergency situation in the herd management area (HMA).
The gather decision is being issued in accordance with 43 CFR 4770.3(c):
- “The authorized officer will issue gather decisions effective upon a date established in the decision in situations where the removal is required by applicable law, or is necessary to preserve or maintain a thriving natural ecological balance and multiple-use relationship;”
- When an emergency situation exists, a Gather Plan EA should be prepared and the decision should be made effective upon issuance.
Q. Why is this gather considered an emergency?
A. The gather is considered an emergency because of persistent drought conditions in the HMA. Northern Nevada and this gather area are currently in a state of severe drought with these conditions expected to persist through the end of July. Any precipitation will likely not impact the long-term drought conditions at least through July.
The BLM has been closely monitoring the condition of the wild horses using automated wildlife cameras and through frequent field visits. Based on our monitoring, we have observed that the animals are demonstrating declining body condition. The body condition score of wild horses in the HMA overall is between a 2 (very thin) and 4 (moderately thin). We need to remove the horses from the range now before their condition worsens. Water sources and water flows in the southern area of the HMA have shown a decrease in the past month. Additionally, there is minimal or no green up on this year’s forage. The wild horses within the southern use area are foraging on last year’s cheat grass and shrubs, which is not meeting their nutritional requirements.
In addition, in 2007 the Jackson Mountains HMA had similar environmental conditions as those today and animal health was similar. The difference between 2007 and 2012 is that the BLM has, and continues to, take proactive measures to ensure we do not have a repeat of 2007 on the rangelands and/or at the short term holding facility (Palomino Valley Center). In 2007 the wild horses were removed from the HMA in a weakened body condition and when they arrived at PVC, numerous deaths occurred.
Due to the drought conditions, the permittees have taken voluntary measures to delay turnout, reduce numbers and adjust livestock operations. Livestock have been removed from the southern use area of the HMA and Jackson Mountain Allotment (Trail Springs/DeLong Windmill). Some livestock may remain because they have returned to the area out of habit, in search of water. The permittees are actively checking for and removing cattle that have returned to this portion of the HMA.
Q. What is BLM doing to prevent health problems with wild horses during the gather – especially foals?
A. The emergency gather is taking place to help address health problems that already exist on the range due to declining body condition. Gathers during the foaling season, March – June, are particularly challenging. Foaling may still be occurring and there will most likely be young foals encountered during gather operations. In light of this, the BLM and the contractor will take every precaution and measure to make sure mares and foals are handled safely and humanely.
Taking actions now with an emergency gather will benefit the horses removed, as well the horses remaining on the range, because neither will be left to survive on such limited forage and water. Those wild horses left on the range will not be competing with numerous others for the limited resources available.
The BLM is taking the following added measures during the gather to address the potential for pregnant mares and small foals:
- Provide additional pen space at the short-term holding corrals to ensure mares and foals have more dedicated pens in which to pair up and be closely monitored.
- Provide additional pen space for weaker animals to be separated from stronger ones for added care.
- Water will be available at the trap location in the event animals can’t be loaded right away and taken to temporary holding corrals.
- A veterinarian will be on site with the BLM Wild Horse Specialists to monitor animal condition at the trap location and temporary holding corrals.
- Close monitoring of weather conditions and temperatures several times daily.
The BLM has also created an Agency Expectations document. The Agency Expectations will be discussed with all gather personnel before gather operations begin, so there is a common understanding among all personnel of our expectations for the safe and humane handling of wild horses during the gather. The Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative (COTR) will address any actions or issues that seem inhumane promptly, and within contract specifications. The Agency Expectations can be found on BLM Nevada’s Winnemucca District website, on the Jackson Mountains Wild Horse Gather page.
Q. Since the emergency is only in the south end, will the BLM gather only the south end? Or will the BLM gather the south end and the remainder of the HMA?
A. The BLM will begin gather operations in the southern portion of the HMA to ensure that animals in the most degraded areas are gathered and removed first. However, due to the expected movement of wild horses during the gather, and because drought conditions are expected to continue to affect range conditions (forage and water), the BLM will gather wild horses within the entire HMA. We feel it is too risky not to gather the entire HMA at this time based on the fact we do not want to further risk animal health into July. The weather outlook for this area for June-July predicts alternating periods of high pressure and low pressure troughs expected through mid-June. This would bring periods of above normal temperatures and dry conditions to Nevada with occasional days of showers and thunderstorms as troughs approach.
If only the southern-mid portions of the HMA are gathered, the possibility exists that with predictive severe drought, lack of forage at the upper elevations, and existing animal health (low energy) declining this recommendation would be un-wise.
Q. It was stated in the Preliminary Environmental Assessment that the BLM would consider water trapping. Why wasn’t that the selected option?
A. Helicopter assisted drive trapping will be the primary method used to capture the horses for this gather. Water trapping is not being implemented for the following reasons:
- Although bait and water trapping can be effective in some herd management areas under other circumstances, it would not be timely, cost-effective or practical as the primary gather method for this HMA.
- These horses are unusually skittish and wary of human activity which prevents bait/water trapping from being a viable option.
- Early efforts to bring water troughs and equipment into the area, a first step toward water trapping, pushed the most affected horses into the hills. Some of these horses did not return and those that did return a couple weeks later had further deteriorated in condition.
Additional Questions and Answers
Environmental Assessment and Decision Record
What is the Modified Proposed Action considered in the Final Environmental Assessment (EA)?
Where is the BLM gathering the wild horses?
When did BLM last gather in this area?
How many wild horses will be removed during this gather?
Will public observation be allowed during the gather?
What is a “public outreach and education day?”
How does the BLM gather wild horses?
Why does the BLM use helicopters to gather wild horses?
Does the public have input regarding the use of helicopters and motorized vehicles in managing wild horses and burros?
Why doesn’t the BLM gather to the high range of AML?
How does the BLM select its gather contractors?
What contractor will be conducting the Jackson Mountains Wild Horse Gather?Does the contractor use whips to move the wild horses through the pens and chute?
Is there livestock grazing in this area?
Has BLM issued decisions to remove livestock from allotments within the Jackson Mountains HMA?
Is the BLM removing wild horses and burros to make room for more cattle grazing?
What Happens After the Horses Are Gathered?
What happens to the wild horses that don’t go back to the range?
Will any of the wild horses be sent to slaughter?
Why is the BLM still removing wild horses when there are already 47,000 in holding?
Location and Environment of the HMA
What is the environment like in the HMA?
Does wild horse overpopulation impact wildlife and plants?
Why don’t you just make more land available to the wild horses?
Will the BLM use fertility control on this gather?