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June 25, 2013
In Reply Refer To:
4710 (260) P
Instruction Memorandum No. 2013-146
Expires: 09/30/2014
To:                   All Field Office Officials (except Alaska)
From:               Assistant Director, Renewable 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" Due to Emergency Conditions and Escalating Problems
Program Areas: Wild Horse and Burro Program
Purpose: This Instruction Memorandum (IM) provides guidance to Authorized Officers (AO) regarding the potential need to gather wild horses utilizing helicopters within the current “annual foaling season helicopter gather closure period” under emergency, and some situations or conditions, resulting in escalating problems. This IM amends guidance in the Wild Horse and Burro (WH&B) Handbook H-4700-1 issued in June 2010, as well as Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Manual 4720.41 issued in July 2010. It authorizes AOs to use helicopters to assist in the gathering of wild horses between the dates of March 1 and June 30 of a given year. This option is crucial to the BLM mission to protect wild horses on the range in a humane manner while allowing for multiple uses of the public lands.
Policy/Action: The peak of foaling for the majority of the wild horse herds on public lands in the West falls within a period from mid-April to mid-May. It has been the BLM’s policy to prohibit the use of helicopters to assist in the capture of wild horses during the peak foaling period and for the six weeks before, and the six weeks following, the peak of foaling. Therefore, the use of helicopters to capture wild horses has been prohibited by policy from March 1 until June 30.  Helicopters may be used year-round in the capture of wild burros as they may foal throughout the year and do not exhibit a specific foaling season.
This IM describes a new exception to the above policy that could be exercised during emergencies and some situations or conditions resulting in escalating problems that threaten the health and welfare of wild horses. 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.”  During such an escalating problem, gathering from March 1 until June 30 with the use of a helicopter could be allowed.  The BLM district or field office will need to provide a briefing paper to the WO-260 for prior approval of the gather.  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 and WO-260 staff and State WH&B Program Leads.

Contact:  If you have any questions regarding this IM, please call Joan Guilfoyle, Division Chief, Wild Horse and Burro Program, at 202-912-7260.

Signed by:                                                       Authenticated by:
Edwin L. Roberson                                           Robert M. Williams
Assistant Director                                            Division of IRM Governance,WO-560
Renewable 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.

Last updated: 07-03-2013