Carson City District-Sierra Front Field Office

Lahontan HMA Facts

Where is the herd and what is special about these animals? 

The Lahontan wild horse herd roams over about 11,029 acres, of which 583 acres are on private lands, in the Lahontan Herd Management Area (HMA), located near Silver Springs, Lyon County, Nevada. The HMA is located south of the Lahontan State Recreation Area (Nevada State Parks) and the Carson River.

The area is also utilized by livestock (under terms and conditions outlined in grazing permits) and a variety of wildlife, including mule deer. However, livestock grazing has not occurred in the areas since March 2007 due to drought conditions and poor forage availability.

No continuous fencing exists that prevents the movement of wild horses outside the HMA. Wild horses utilize the non-Federal Lahontan State Recreation Area because of the availability of water in Lahontan Reservoir and the Carson River.

The Lahontan wild horses are most likely descendants of about four local ranch horses that were found in 1971 in what is now the HMA.

What needs to be done to maintain this herd? 

To maintain a healthy Lahontan herd and to restore or maintain the rangelands in a healthy condition, the BLM plans to gather enough horses to restore the population to a level that can be sustained in balance with the other uses described above.

The BLM determined the appropriate management level (AML) to be 7-10 horses in the HMA as part of the 1993 Lahontan Grazing Allotment (LGA) Multiple Use Decision (MUD). However, the current population is estimated at 104 horses, an overpopulation resulting in on-going damage to the rangelands. Utilization and wild horse sign clearly indicate that heavy use is occurring throughout the HMA.

Under the 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, when this occurs, BLM is required to "remove excess animals" to "restore a thriving ecological balance to the range."  BLM plans to gather and remove approximately 94 excess wild horses and retain an estimated 10 horses in the HMA to achieve ecological balance.  The animals removed will be offered for adoption through the BLM’s wild horse and burro adoption program, or placed in long-term holding pastures.

Why is the Lahontan gather necessary? 

Overpopulated wild horse herds overuse the rangeland, threatening their own health and the health of native wildlife and plants, damaging scarce water sources, and reducing water quality.  The Lahontan wild horse population is currently approximately 15 times higher than the lower limit set for the AML (7 horses). Reducing population size would ensure that the remaining wild horses are healthy and vigorous, and not at risk of death or suffering from starvation due to insufficient habitat.

The majority of the Lahontan wild horses reside primarily outside the HMA due to a lack of water. Horses rely on water in Lahontan Reservoir and the Carson River, both within the Lahontan State Recreation Area and both outside the HMA.

Managing wild horses within the established AML would help promote an increase in forage availability and quality. Removing excess wild horses from both within and outside the HMA boundaries would reduce competition for forage and permit rest periods from grazing, thus allowing for the improvement of rangeland health.

Livestock grazing is also a factor, but while BLM actively manages this authorized use to mitigate the impacts, wild horses and burros roam freely, year-round as the law allows.

How does BLM balance wild horses with livestock management? 

The Lahontan Wild Horse Herd Management Area (HMA) makes up about 21 percent of the 52,910 acre Lahontan Grazing Allotment (LGA).  Forage is allocated by Animal Unit Months (AUMs). An AUM is the amount of forage consumed in a month by an adult horse, a mare and foal, two burros, an adult cow or cow and calf, or five sheep.  Available AUMs within the HMA are divided between wild horses (120 AUMs) and livestock (122 AUMs). The LGA grazing season of use is November 1 through March 31 when forage is available. However, livestock grazing has not occurred in the Lahontan area for 3 ½ years due to drought conditions and poor forage availability due to over utilization by wild horses.