Wild Horse Education

Martin Fire Update: 7/13


The highlighted area is the “area of operation” for BLM roundups of the Owyhee Complex. The area in the red outline is a rough overlay of the Martin fire.

We ask that you take the time to read and understand the aspects of this fire.

The Martin Fire is perhaps the single most destructive incident occurring on wild horse habitat since the passage of the Act. On July 5th a fire began that has burned nearly 440,000 acres. It is believed the fire began due to human activity on July 5 (camping, off-roading, target shooting) and is to be determined.

As of this morning the fire is at 95% containment and has burned 435,569 acres.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office and the Bureau of Land Management Law Enforcement Division are requesting help from the public, saying the fire was human-caused. Anyone who may have been camping or in the vicinity of Martin Creek or Martin Creek Canyon the night of July 4, or anyone who might have information on the person or people who may have been responsible for the start of the Martin Fire is asked to contact:

Humboldt County Secret Witness: 775-623-6969.
Or online at the HCSO Report Suspicious Activity web page.
Or the BLM Law Enforcement Tips Line: 775-885-6117.

Two rewards are being offered for information as to who may have caused this fire, one by the Stewart family and one by BLM: http://www.kolotv.com/content/news/Family-offers-10-thousand-dollars-reward-to-whoever-helps-them-find-Martin-fire-responsible-487951031.html


BLM map of current herd management areas (HMAs) that are managed for wild horses on public lands

The Owyhee Complex is one of the last large systems of HMAs left in the United States. Perspective on the magnitude of this event is important. Nevada has a public land base of around 84%. That is why we have more wild horses in Nevada than any other state (or all other states combined), because NV has more public lands. Sometimes you will hear this very simple fact misrepresented to claim Nevada is “simply out of control” and then a comparative large number of wild horses as the logic used to demonstrate the assertion.

Nevada BLM simply has a greater responsibility to the public and public domain. Think about the scope of the Martin fire. That fire, and all the fire crews and clean up, was coordinated by federal land agencies. It’s going to be expensive. That was the intention in the creation of many of the Constitutions in western states, that land is the responsibility of the federal government and the tab gets paid by all tax-payers.

Below is a great video from Keep It Public if you do not understand the how  the map of land base we have today called “Public Land” was created.

When we look at this fire in terms of “wild horses” perspective on public lands becomes very important.

In the United states we have very few areas left of large tracts of lands. In truth these tracts are criss crossed with grazing fences, mining fences and mining roads; open range increasingly becoming simply a myth. However these large tracts are the places we have our truly last large herds of wild horses left. When you hear BLM say “vast and rugged terrain” this is one of those places. You can not drive in these areas in a 20 minute jaunt off a main highway and grab a photo.

The area burned is more than ten times the size of the entire Pryor Mountain wild horse range in Montana and twice the size of the entire Sand Wash Basin HMA in Colorado. The burned area is larger than the entire Virginia Range (state horses of Nevada).


The few stallions being released after the 2016 roundup. The area of the fire.

The Owyhee Complex is more than 1,000,000 acres. Over 35% of the area has burned.

This fire moved extremely fast and flames reported at over 45 ft tall. Very heave fuel loads (grasses, this is not a “forest fire”), of 200-1000 times the normal loads, fed a fire that was “faster than a horse” according to a quote in the Reno Gazette Journal.

This is the most devastating single destructive event of federally managed wild horse habitat.

Many of you know these horses from watching the work of Wild Horse Education. In 2010 our founder filed litigation to observe a roundup of wild horses (1,224 captured), won the case, but then was chased around and threatened with arrest? In 2012 WHE was back and filed a case against handling (we won) and then attempted to work with the BLM state office under Amy Lueders to address the other allegations in our case that the National Academy of Sciences confirmed (BLM removed about 900 horses). We filed to address a BLM roundup at Snowstorm where no observation was going to be allowed and the area should not have been a priority as “emergency,” BLM cancelled the operation.

In 2016 WHE were back at another winter roundup where 1,832 wild horses were captured. This operation was to “protect sage grouse,” (many of you know how we feel about the entire conversation of sage grouse; politics have taken it over, not reality). The focal point of this operation, protection of habitat, has now burned.

Wildfire is a natural part of the life cycle of the land. However our public lands are no longer open range where animals can simply move a hundred miles and then move back home. Our rangelands are highly managed places of industry.  (post on wildfire: https://wildhorseeducation.org/2016/08/08/wildfire-what-you-should-know/)

The Owyhee wild horses hold an extremely special place in the work of WHE and in the hearts of the volunteers of this organization.

We are also aware that this fire is a painful event for the BLM wild horse and burro specialists that work in these areas.

This event is catastrophic. Local families have lost homes and livelihoods. Wildlife and wild horses have lost habitat and lives fleeing from fires that ran over fence lines. The losses of this fire are a long way from full comprehension.

WHE has offered our assistance through official channels and will do our own assessments as we are able.

WHE asks that all of you at home (public and federal managers) take a moment to understand this event, not only with your heart but with your mind. The issues of limited on the ground funding in the wild horse program have been magnified a thousand times by this event. But is we all step back from reaction our actions moving forward could create a framework to heal what has happened and create a path forward that can address many of the deficits. Actions moving forward must contain both heart and mind. 

We will update you again soon.

Earlier article on Martin Fire: https://wildhorseeducation.org/2018/07/09/martin-fire-owyhee-complex-wild-horses/

Current flight restrictions: http://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_8_9574.html




Foal from the area that burned.

Categories: Wild Horse Education