Following passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WFRHBA) in 1971, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was directed to identify areas where wild horses and burros were located. In the first few years following passage of the 1971 WFRHBA, BLM Nevada inventoried and mapped wild horses and burros on 19.7 million acres of public land. These areas were designated as Herd Areas (areas where horses and burros were in 1971).
Through land use planning, BLM evaluated each Herd Area to determine whether or not there was enough food, water, cover and space to support healthy and diverse populations of wild horses and burros over the long-term. Areas which met these criteria were then designated as Herd Management Areas (HMAs). About 74% or nearly 14.7 million acres of the original herd area acreage in Nevada has been identified as suitable for the long-term management of wild horses and burros.
An example of a Herd Area where there is not enough food (forage) and water to support healthy and diverse populations of wild horses and burros over the long term.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q – Why doesn’t BLM manage wild horses and burros on all the original herd areas?
A – Several Nevada Herd Areas were comprised of intermingled public and private land (checkerboard landownership). A ruling by the Federal Court in 1978 required BLM to remove wild horses and burros from private land as soon as practicable upon landowner request (for more information reference Roaring Springs vs. Andrus, 1978). As a result, this made it difficult to manage wild horses and burros where there was intermingled public-private land. Other Herd Areas didn’t have enough food and water to support healthy and diverse populations of horses and burros.
Q – Can BLM manage wild horses or burros where herds did not exist in 1971?
A – No. Under the law, BLM is authorized to manage wild horses or burros only on those areas where they were found in 1971.
Q – How much of the original herd area acreage is managed today for wild horses and burros?
A – About 82% or nearly 16 million acres of Nevada’s original herd areas are managed for wild horses and burros today.
Q – Could a herd area ever become an HMA or vice versa?
A – Yes. If conditions change, it is possible the areas could be re-evaluated and the designations changed. Any changes would be made with public participation and through an in-depth environmental analysis and decision process.
Q – BLM previously reported 102 HMAs on nearly 16 million acres of public land in Nevada; today BLM is reporting only 84 HMAs on 14.7 million acres. What accounts for the difference?
A – In September 2008, the Ely District Resource Management Plan (RMP) was approved. This decision returned about 1.6 million acres of HMAs to Herd Area status. AML for these areas was also established as “0” due to inadequate habitat (lack of suitable forage or water). This change reduced the number of HMAs Nevada now manages to 84. The state-wide appropriate management level (AML) was also reduced to 12,618 wild horses and burros (a reduction of 480 wild horses). Details follow.
Returned to HA Status (AML = 0)
The following areas were returned to Herd Area status due to the lack of suitable habitat (inadequate forage or water). They lie within a Mojave Desert transition zone where trees and brush comprise the primary vegetation; relatively few grasses or forbs are present and water is limited. Because of the lack of grasses/forbs and limited water, wild horses within the area are typically a condition class 3 – thin, or very thin (Henneke body condition). Over the years, a number of emergency gathers have been needed to prevent their death from starvation or thirst.
• Blue Nose Peak
• Cherry Creek (eastern portion)
• Clover Creek
• Clover Mountains
• Highland Peak (southern 2/3)
• Jakes Wash
• Little Mountain
• Meadow Valley Mountains
• Miller Flat
• Rattlesnake (southern half)
• White River
Herd Management Areas
Several HMAs were combined into single-HMAs to facilitate future management. Following approval of the 2008 Ely RMP, the BLM Ely District will focus its management of wild horses and burros on the six HMAs listed below.
• Triple B (includes the former Buck and Bald, Butte and western 1/3 of the Cherry Creek HMAs)
• Eagle (includes the former Wilson Creek and Deer Lodge Canyon HMAs)
• Pancake (includes the former Monte Cristo and Sand Springs East HMAs)
• Silver King (includes the former Dry Lake HMA and portions of the Rattlesnake and Highland Peak HMAs)
• Diamond Hills South