Video Transcript

The Tuscarora Gather. . .Extreme Terrain Requires Extreme Diligence

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The Tuscarora Gather includes three wild horse herd management areas, or HMAs, that make up almost half a million acres of land in Nevada. Each area has its own story of extreme conditions and unique circumstances. The Bureau of Land Management’s job is to manage healthy horses on healthy rangelands, according to the Wild Horses and Burros Act of 1971. BLM employees—rangeland managers, biologists, horse and burro specialists and others—work together to understand the dynamics of the range and work to manage a balance: from different species of animals that share the land, to water availability, to how many animals the land can sustain. BLM also monitors wild horse behavior – where they roam, where they prefer to stay, and how far they have travel between water and food. It’s mid-May, 2010. . . Let’s take a look on the ground at the Tuscarora Gather Area. . .

In the Owyhee HMA, the key issues are overpopulation and limited resources. The BLM considers all the different uses on the land, and through a multiple-use decision, BLM determines how many horses an area can sustain. This amount is expressed as a range, from low to high, and it is called the appropriate management level, or AML. The appropriate management level for the Owyhee is 139 to 231 horses. Currently, the Owyhee HMA has more than 8oo horses on it, or more than three times the high end of the appropriate management level. There is little water available to sustain more than 800 horses. Of the twenty-three ponds on the Owyhee HMA, more than half have very little water left in them and the rest have dried up as of mid-May.

Dave Overcast, BLM Tuscarora Field Office Manager:
We’re out here today on the Owyhee Herd Management Area. We’ve got about 500 wild horses out in this area. Our concern today and what I’d like to show you is behind me – one of these little storage ponds for water that we have. There’s just a couple in this area. You can see this one will be out here in about the next four weeks – first of June. And there’ll be no water left. Our horses will need to travel clear over 10 miles to the river in order to get water and then come back in this area. So, in caring for horses, this is one of our concerns.

Looking at the miles of sagebrush and other plants, it may appear that there is enough for horses to eat. Understanding what kind of plants a horse can eat, how much they eat and how long the plants they eat are available is key. On the Owyhee, Rock Creek and Little Humboldt HMAs, only a few different types of plants exist and most of these provide the horses nutrition for a only a brief window of time. Sagebrush, though edible, provides little nourishment to horses.

Dave Overcast, BLM Tuscarora Field Manager:
I have a question for you. How many acres do you think it would take to feed a horse for a month out here? Take a look on the ground. You know, our estimate is about 50 acres. So you can imagine at 50 acres per horse, to feed them for a month, it’s going to take thousands of acres to do that.

Rock Creek Herd Management Area 
In the Rock Creek HMA, the key issues are overpopulation and a large number of wild horses that moved outside the HMA. The appropriate management level for the Rock Creek HMA is 150-250 wild horses. Currently there are about 600 horses on, and outside of, the HMA.

Wild horses don’t recognize boundaries. They will travel far and wide to find water and food, and even break through fences on private property to get what they need. 60 percent of the Rock Creek horses reside outside the HMA.

Gregg Simonds, Ranch Manager, Squaw Valley Ranch:
This pasture here has a barber wire fence around it. It’s part of the upper Willow Creek enhancement area. . .which is. . . We’re trying to manage the specials for the Lahontan cutthroat trout and our cattle. And basically, it’s largely private land in here, and the horses have left the HMA and they are constantly breaking down the fence and coming into this area. And it makes it really hard for us to get the right kind of prescription grazing to provide the rest in this area when the fences are broken down almost on a daily basis.

Excessive wild horses in areas not designated for them can affect other species. This is the case surrounding the Rock Creek HMA. Horses that migrate off the HMA head for springs and drainages that flow into streams where the Lahontan cutthroat trout live. These trout are a federally listed threatened species, and the horses’ potential indirect impact is a concern. BLM has worked in partnership with conservationists and the Squaw Valley rancher to restore the creek outside the Rock Creek HMA which is now threatened by wild horse use upstream.

Carol Evans, Fishery Biologist, BLM Tuscarora Field Office:
I’m standing on the banks of Willow Creek. Willow Creek is one of several streams that supports Lahontan cutthroat trout. They’re a federally listed threatened species. We have been managing the grazing here very effectively for about the last eight years. When we started here, these stream banks didn’t have the vegetation that you see now. They were very bare. They were eroding during spring flows. We didn’t have the willows here. It was really poor habitat for fish. There has been an increase in horses using this area outside the HMA. There’s some estimates of approx. 100 horses in this area. When we have horses outside the HMA and in the surrounding areas, they will damage the fences. We have difficulty controlling the cattle. And they will start to take up residence in the area and start to impact the stream.

In the Little Humboldt HMA, the key issue is managing the current population to avoid horses moving off the HMA. The appropriate management level for the Little Humboldt HMA is 48-80. To keep numbers within the AML, BLM will remove some younger animals and conduct fertility control on mares that will be releases back to the HMA. This effort will help protect nearby Lahontan cutthroat trout. Horses going outside the HMA in search of food and water could impact trout habitat.

The Goal of the Tuscarora Gather
The goal of the gather is to control wild horse overpopulation by removing excess wild horses residing inside and outside the HMA boundaries; gathering more horses than necessary to so that some mares can be treated with fertility control and released back to the HMAs; adjusting the sex ratio of the herd to have fewer females than males; and providing better habitat and quality of life for the wild horses that remain in the HMAs.

BLM manages the public rangelands through collaboration with outside partners. Here are some of the things our partners have to say about our efforts to control the overpopulation of wild horses.

Well, as far as gathering horses on public lands, our position is that the numbers do need to be controlled because of their impact on both habitat and water resources that directly affect wildlife in the state of Nevada.

We’re all supportive of the gathers. We believe in multiple use, combining cattle ranching, sheep ranching, mining, recreation, wild horses, wildlife, all on public lands and having that be in balance. And I’ve been a horse person from birth almost. We raised and trained Appaloosas and showed them nationally, and I’ve also seen the damage that many of these wild horses have done out on the range and seen side by side, two pastures, where they were and where they were not. It’s extremely devastating to the land when they’re in high numbers because they stay in one place for the most part. They’re very territorial. So, I don’t think anybody doesn’t want the horses here we just want them managed in the numbers that were established under the wild horse and burro act.

Gregg Simonds, Ranch Manager, Squaw Valley Ranch:
Because at the end of the day, what we have here is this landscape. And we’re trying to take care of this landscape. Trying to keep it so that’ it’s thriving, and most important, that whatever precipitation we do get goes into the ground and allows a whole cascade of life to happen.

Carol Evans, Fishery Biologist, BLM Tuscarora Field Office:
Where I think we can make the most gains as the American public, as a society, is working together. Just trying to get out on the ground and seeing what the resource issues are, and what the problems are, and working together for solutions. It’s just amazing what we can do when we work together, and it’s amazing you can get these kinds of results.

The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971
Under the Act, BLM is required to manage wild horses and burros only in those areas where they were found when the Act passed in 1971

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA)
Under the Act, BLM is required to manage public lands under the principles of multiple use and sustainable yield.

Managing use by cattle and sheep, together with wildlife and wild horses and burros, and a host of other uses is a key part of BLM’s multiple use management mission under FLPMA.

For more information about the BLM’s wild horse and burro program, or to learn how you can adopt please contact us at:

Phone: 1-866-4Mustangs (1-866-468-7826)
Facebook: BLMWildHorseandBurro