Wild Horse and Burro (WH&B) Program

IM 2015-152
Instruction Memorandum



WASHINGTON, D.C.   20240-0036



September 23, 2015

In Reply Refer To:

4700 (260) P



Instruction Memorandum No. 2015-152

Expires:  09/30/2018

To:                   All Field Office Officials (except Alaska)

From:               Assistant Director, Resources and Planning

Subject:           Exception to Policy in BLM Handbook H-4700-1 and Manual 4720.41: “Helicopter Gather of Wild Horses and Burros between March 1 and June 30”

Program Area:  Wild Horse and Burro (WH&B) Program

Purpose:  The purpose of this Instruction Memorandum (IM) is to establish an exception for the need to gather wild horses utilizing helicopters within the current “annual foaling season helicopter gather closure period” (March 1 – June 30) under emergency actions or escalating problems. 

Policy/Action: Allow an exception for the use of helicopters to gather wild horses during the foaling period (March 1 – June 30) under emergency actions or escalating problems.  Helicopters may be used year-round in the capture of wild burros as they do not exhibit a specific foaling season. 

Emergency and Escalating Problems are defined in the WH&B 4700 Handbook as follows:  emergencies[1]: “unexpected events that threaten the health and welfare of a WH&B population and/or their habitat;” and escalating problems:  “conditions that deteriorate over time.  The key indicators are a decline in the amount of forage or water available for WH&B use, with negative impacts to rangeland health and, ultimately, animal conditions.”  The BLM Administrative District or Field Office will need to provide a briefing paper to the WO-260 for prior approval of the use of helicopters during the foaling period.  This briefing paper should include the following:

  • Name of affected herd management area (HMA).
  • Nature of the emergency or escalating problem. (i.e., drought, fire, lack of forage).
  • Approximate number of animals that are in jeopardy.
  • A brief description of actions already taken to attempt to mitigate the situation.
  • Whether mortality is expected without action and why.
  • Appropriate management level of the HMA and the current estimated population.
  • Anticipated timeline for action.

Upon approval from WO-260, the gathering of wild horses with a helicopter could commence.

Timeframe:  This IM is effective immediately. 

Budget Impact:  No budget impacts are expected.  Gathers that were previously scheduled to take place later in the fiscal year would be canceled or rescheduled to allow for these gathers to occur.

Background:  This IM provides further guidance with respect to the use of helicopters to assist in the capture of wild horses.

Manual/Handbook Sections Affected:  This IM clarifies the intent of BLM Manual Section 4720.41 and BLM Handbook 4700-1, Chapter 4.4.4 with regard to the BLM’s policy on the use of helicopters to assist in the capture of wild horses.

Coordination:  This IM was coordinated among WO-200, WO-260, and WH&B State Program Leads.

Contact:  Any questions regarding this IM can be directed to Bryan Fuell, On-Range Branch Chief, Wild Horse and Burro Program, at 775-861-6611.




Signed by:                                                       Authenticated by:

Michael H. Tupper                                          Robert M. Williams

Acting, Assistant Director                              Division of IRM Governance,WO-860

Resources and Planning


[1]  The term ‘emergency’ as used in this sense does not necessarily imply an emergency under NEPA, and so appropriate NEPA analysis may be required before action is taken.  Refer to BLM NEPA Handbook 1790-1 section 2.3.1 for additional information.