Wild Horse Walkabouts; Field course teaches basics of rangeland science

Amanda Gearhart is the wild horse and burro specialist for BLM’s Northern California District. She holds a doctorate in range science and shares her passion for rangeland management with all she meets. Before coronavirus limited in-person events, Dr. Gearhart organized ‘wild horse walkabouts’ – a weekend long course open to anyone, to learn the basics of rangeland science, vegetation measurement, and wild horse management. Every year, she and her field crews visit dozens of sites to monitor the conditions of water sources, sagebrush, and riparian lands where wild horses and burros live. “This is the iconic American West – whose story would not be complete without the horses who helped to settle it,” she said “the animals that are roaming our public rangelands are descendants of this hardy stock, and they deserve our best efforts!” There are over 6,000 wild horses and over 600 wild burros living on BLM-managed rangelands in northern California. “Ecological balance here means having enough forage and water for wild horses, as well as all the native wildlife and other legally required uses on these public lands.”

Rangeland Science instructor Amanda Gearhart
Lead instructor Amanda Gearhart uses magnetized animals and plants to direct a discussion about different forage needs for common species found on western rangelands.
wild horse walkabout field classroom
Outdoor experiential learning classroom. Content lectures were interspersed with fun, hands-on learning projects. Walkabout takes place in California's Twin Peaks Herd Management Area for anyone interested in learning about wild horses and burros and their habitat.
Line point intercept method
Lead instructor Amanda Gearhart assists Walkabout participants to identify plants using the line point intercept method. Participants collect data using scientific methods are part of a participatory learning process.
riparian area stream measurements
BLM Northern California District wild horse and burro interns complete measurements on Pete’s Spring a riparian area in the Twin Peaks HMA. Measurements are critical in determining the health of the landscapes and ensuring the heathy herds on healthy rangelands.