The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Winnemucca District Office in Nevada is seeking public comments on an Environmental Assessment (EA) for a proposal to remove 161 wild horses from the Humboldt Herd Area (HA). The BLM wants the roundup to occur "beginning July 1, 2013 or as soon as funding and holding space allows."
The helicopter roundup is being proposed not as an emergency, but rather for alleged "public safety" reasons relating to vehicle collisions and property damage. However, the BLM provides no evidence or details about alleged property damage, and notes that in the past 14 years only six horses have been hit by vehicles on "county roads," where speed and unsafe driving are likely reasons behind such accidents.
In 1982, the BLM decided that wild horses should be eliminated from this area, but allowed ranchers to continue to graze on the public lands there. In fact, the forage allocated to livestock is enough to sustain 592 horses annually! Despite the BLM's repeated attempts to eradicate the mustangs, a healthy wild horse population has survived in the Humboldt HA.
LOCATION: The HA is located in Pershing County about 30 miles south of Winnemucca, NV and extends along the eastside of Interstate 80 to Lovelock, Nevada.
SIZE: 431,544 acres of which 219,085 acres are public lands. (Checkerboard pattern with alternating public private land parcels.)
ESTIMATED WILD HORSE POPULATION: 161 wild horses, including 2013 foals.
LIVESTOCK GRAZING: 11 permittees in 7 allotments for a total of 7,101 Animal Unit Months (AUMs) of forage authorized for grazing of cattle and sheep on public lands within the HA.
WILD HORSE EQUIVALENT: Forage allocated to livestock could sustain as many as 592 wild horses annually.
HA INFORMATION: The land in this HA is in a checkerboard pattern (public/private), and BLM claims in the EA that the private landowners are not willing to enter into cooperative agreements to allow wild horses to live in the area. However, these landowners enjoy the privilege of grazing their livestock on our public lands at below-market rates, thanks to our tax subsidies. In exchange for this privilege, the agency should incentivize the ranchers to tolerate federally-protected wild horses in the area, instead of expecting American taxpayers to further subsidize these private operations by paying for expensive helicopter roundups and warehousing of captured horses.
The BLM could easily and quickly change the status of this Herd Area to a Herd Management Area where horses are allowed to exist. In fact, the June 2013 National Academy of Sciences report recommended that the BLM utilize its Adaptive Management processes to improve the transparency and public responsiveness of the wild horse and burro program: