The Bureau of Land Management’s Vale District Malheur Field Office plans to begin the Barren Valley Complex Emergency Wild Horse Gather on or about September 8, 2021.
The Wild-Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 gives BLM the direction for protecting and overseeing wild horses and burros on public lands. In managing these animals, the BLM works to maintain a thriving ecological balance that supports healthy horses on healthy rangelands. Heavy to severe wild horse grazing jeopardizes the health of rangelands, wetlands, wildlife habitats, and ultimately animal health and condition.
In the Barren Valley Complex, an excessive horse population coupled with severe drought conditions has resulted in an inadequate supply of water and forage to sustain animal health through the remainder of the season. Local ranchers have been assisting BLM with providing water to the horses while the gather was planned.
Details of Gather
The complex is located in southern Malheur and Harney Counties and includes Coyote Lake/Alvord-Tule Springs, Sheepshead/Heath Creek and Sand Springs Herd Management Areas (HMAs). The three HMAs are managed as a complex because horses routinely move between the three areas, which span nearly 1 million acres. Gather operations may also take place in areas outside the Complex where wild horses have moved in search of food and water and are creating a public safety hazard by traveling across roads and highways.
The BLM will utilize the services of a helicopter contractor to gather and remove up to 1,900 excess wild horses. In June 2021, approximately 2500 wild horses were counted in the complex. The Appropriate Management Level – the number of horses the range can sustainably support in conjunction with other animals and resource uses – for this area is 459-892 horses.
Members of the public are welcome to view the gather operations, provided that doing so does not jeopardize the safety of the animals, staff and observers, or disrupt gather operations. The BLM anticipates viewing opportunities will begin on or about September 8, 2021, weather and logistics permitting. Observers must contact Public Affairs Specialist Larisa Bogardus at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-523-1407 no later than 12 p.m. MST to request viewing the following day. Viewing is not guaranteed and is limited to no more than 12 people per day. Observation will be offered to those on the viewing list in order, based on the date in which interest was expressed in attending the gather.
Observers will be informed of the designated meeting location the night before. It will likely be in or near Burns Junction, Ore., two hours southwest of Boise, ID, but could be farther afield, depending on the location of gather operations.
Participation may be limited and/or some days of the gather may not provide a viewing opportunity due to variable circumstances such as moving the trap location (not gathering), no safe area to view activity or disguise vehicles, rainy or windy conditions (not gathering), poor vehicle access, etc.
Viewing is not guaranteed. Notice on the days where no viewing opportunity exists will likely be given on short notice – perhaps the day before or the morning of the gather operation.
Observers must attend a pre-viewing briefing with the gather Public Affairs Specialist at the designated meeting location prior to departure for the HMA. Observers arriving at the viewing area without first attending the briefing shall not participate in the observation day.
Viewing at the temporary holding facilities may be allowed if it is determined safe and undisruptive by the contractor, and at the discretion of the landowner if private property is used.
The number of media and public in the gather observation site may be limited in order to allow for social distancing. The CDC has offered guidance to help people visiting public lands prevent the spread of infectious diseases. We will continue to monitor all functions to ensure that visitors adhere to CDC guidance for mitigating risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19 and take any additional steps necessary to protect public health.
Animals gathered from the range will be transported to BLM’s Off-Range Wild Horse and Burro Corrals in Bruneau, Idaho, and Reno, Nev. About 100 horses will be selected for return to the range when conditions allow. The remaining horses will be prepared for adoption or sale into private care or long-term holding.
For more information regarding viewing, contact gather Public Affairs Specialist Larisa Bogardus at email@example.com or 541-523-1407. Viewing will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis, with no more than 15 viewers allowed per day.
The gather is expected to last 30 days, though exact start and end dates will be determined by the contractor’s availability. Supporting National Environmental Policy Act documents for this gather are available on the BLM’s ePlanning web site at https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/1504535/510.
For more information on the Wild Horse and Burro Program, call 1-866-468-7826 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.