DIAMOND HILLS NORTH and SOUTH HERD MANAGEMENT AREA
The Diamond Hills North HMA and Diamond Hills South HMA are managed as a “complex.” The Diamond Mountain Complex encompasses approximately 302,852 acres of public land in three Nevada counties: Eureka, Elko and White Pine. The northern end of the area is approximately 40 miles south of Elko, Nevada. The southern end of the area is adjacent to the town of Eureka, Nevada. The core of the HMAs are the Diamond Mountain Range where most of the wild horses spend the summer. The HMAs extend out from the mountains north and east into the Diamond Hills and Huntington Valley, and west into Diamond Valley. Elevation ranges from approximately 5,800 feet in the valley bottoms to approximately 10,600 feet on Diamond Peak.
The HMA supports vegetation typical of the Great Basin region which consists of shrubs such as sagebrush, rabbitbrush and whitesage, and many species of native grasses such as Indian ricegrass, bottlebrush squirreltail, Sandberg bluegrass and Nevada needlegrass. The higher elevations support groves of aspen and pinon-juniper forests.
Average precipitation is approximately 7 inches on the valley bottoms and from 16 to 18 inches on the mountain peaks. Most of the rainfall occurs during the winter months when the plants are dormant and this creates the cold-temperate desert of which the Diamond Hills HMA is a part. Temperatures can be extreme. They range from a high of near 100 degrees F in the summer months to a low of -15 degrees F in the winter.
Wild horses typically consume a variety of native grasses during the spring and summer months then switch to brush species in the fall and winter. Water can be very difficult to find; there are numerous springs in the herd area but during drought years, many dry up. Wild horses must travel long distances between water and foraging areas and foals must be able to keep up with the herd from the day they are born, which is why most wild horses have outstanding endurance.
The majority of wild horses are descendants of domestic ranch, farm and homestead stock. There were several ranches in the Diamond Hills area that had domestic horse permits at the time the Wild Horse and Burro Act was passed (P.L. 92-195, December 1971). When the Act was passed, the BLM could no longer authorize grazing by domestic horses within wild horse herd areas, and all permittees were given a certain time period to gather and claim their branded horses. Any horses remaining on the public lands at the end of this claiming period were declared wild. The horses in the Diamond Hills HMA are probably a mix of several common breeds. One rancher in the area bred and raised American Saddlebreds and many of the horses caught in the Diamond Complex exhibited the characteristics of this breed.
The summer of 1999 brought a series of devastating wildfires to northern Nevada which burned over 1.5 million acres across the state. One of these fires was known as the Sadler Complex. This fire was started by lighting on August 5, 1999 and burned 199,198 acres before control was declared on August 12, 1999. The fire was within the Diamond Hills North Wild Horse Herd Management Area (HMA) which encompasses approximately 70,000 acres of public and private lands. Approximately 90% of the HMA was burned and most of the horses moved north of the HMA in search of forage. What was once was a productive herd area that contained a variety of native grasses, forbs and shrubs now resembles a blackened moonscape. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is busy planning seedings in some of the burned area due to concerns that only non-native species (WEEDS) will invade the burned areas. Not all of the burned area will be seeded, however, as Bureau specialists expect that desirable native vegetation will return naturally.
Wild horses were removed from the HMA for two basic reasons: 1. there was inadequate forage remaining to support the horses (possible winter starvation) and 2. the burned area needs protection from grazing animals in order to establish the seedings and prevent erosion due to massive trampling by large animals. This is especially important in delicate riparian areas. The Red Rock and Brown grazing allotments (which make up the Diamond Hills North HMA) will also be closed to both livestock and wild horses until the area recovers. When the allotments are re-opened to livestock grazing, wild horses will be allowed to return to the HMA as well.
A census flight conducted on August 25, 1999, found a total of 123 horses. Thirty-one adults and 3 foals were found within the Diamond Hills North HMA and the remainder, 72 adults and 17 foals, were found north of the HMA. The area north of the HMA is not designated as a herd management area, and therefore, the BLM could not allow the horses to remain there.
The gather was an age selective removal. A total of 84 animals which included mares age nine and under and studs age seven and under were gathered and sent to the wild horse adoption program. Twenty-nine horses older than this age criteria were gathered and relocated into the Diamond Hills South HMA which is administered by the Ely BLM Field Office.
The horses gathered from the Diamond Hills North HMA were slightly larger than other wild horses in various HMAs in the Elko area. They were an extremely colorful bunch with many red and blue roans, savinas, and a few paints. The horses from the Diamonds are also know for their relatively quiet disposition.
For more information on Nevada’s Wild Horses visit: www.nv.blm.gov/whpairs/