The Miller Fire, about 30 miles northeast of Pioche, Nev., is currently estimated at 5,600 acres with zero containment. Full containment is anticipated by Saturday, July 4. The fire was first reported at 2:50 p.m., Friday. The cause is undetermined.
The Miller fire is located in an area the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) conducted a relentless roundup of wild horses earlier this year. 1704 wild horses were rounded up and 24 died.
The fuels driving this fire are, in part, classified as “short grass.” The short grasses are noted as a foot tall.
The Miller fire is 0% contained; containment is not expected until July 4th. We can not estimate the acreage that will be lost.
The Eagle Complex is criss-crossed with livestock fencing. Many of these areas the gates are regularly closed, even when livestock is not out. Wild horses live in the area of this fire. At this time we do not know if BLM is out opening gates, or cutting fences, to allow wild horses and wildlife to safely escape. We have contacted the BLM Ely office in NV and have requested an update. We will let you know if we hear anything.
Edited 2:30 PM 6/28: Our request for gates to be opened was passed to field staff by the office. At this time we do not know if that request was met with any understanding of its importance by field personnel. Miller fire.
Edit 4 PM 6/28: The Mahogany Fire is now hitting the Cold Creek/Wheeler Pass herd managed jointly by Forest Service and BLM. (this is the area neglected by both FS and bLM that results in “emergency” roundups every few years). Fire is 5000 acres, 0% contained and continues to move east, continuing to destroy acreage in wild horse territory.
Miller fire is not the first to hit after massive removals of wild horses
After years of relentlessly driving the population of the 1.5 million acres project area of the Owyhee Complex down to less than 1000 wild horses, the Martin fire hit.
The Martin fire was the largest loss of wild horse habitat since the passage on the Wild-Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, nearly 440,000 acres. Tens of thousands of animals lost their lives fleeing the fire: antelope, sage grouse, domestic cattle and wild horses. The fire moved at speeds clocked in excess of 35 miles per hour fueled by an unprecedented grass load. (more on the cost to the wild horses here)
After the fire BLM pushed the wild horse population down to less than 550 wild horses in the entire complex. BLM then proceeded to “seed” cow chow.
Wild horses, if allowed to behave naturally, move constantly in their environment. They are great at weeding out excess fire fuel and even reseed a healthy range with native vegetation. As Velma Johnston stated back in 1955: “Moreover, because the horse’s digestive system is incomplete, grass seed consumed by the horse passed unharmed through the animal and was deposited along with natural fertilizer reseeding the range.”
However, domestic cattle simply obliterate the rangeland causing increasing existence of fire fuels and fire corridors. Yet, there is a huge push to change policy to allow more livestock on the range under the junk science being fed to Congress claiming “cows can stop fire.”
Why aren’t wild horse stocking levels (AML) tied to the role they play in reducing fire fuel? Because BLM does not manage wild horses, they just remove them. Yes, it is that simple.
If you want to create the chance to address all of the issues that desperately need attention in management we need management plans, not just roundup plans.
BLM actually outlines management plans as the first step. But they do not do that step and simply skip to removal to keep profit driven uses happy.
The Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) is supposed to involve a deep layer of public involvement through what is called “scoping.” Then several steps occur before a final plan is arrived at. That HMAP is supposed to include all areas of management, including factors like fire fuel reduction included in the stocking level (AML) calculation. It is also supposed to provide the opportunity to identify critical habitat and measures to protect it.
BLM has skipped the HMAP for decades. They do not give stakeholders for wild horses and burros the opportunity to engage management. They give that opportunity to livestock, mining, hunters, ATV users.
You can help change that in the budget debate.
Contact Congress and hammer the message “Congress must mandate planning, Herd Management Area plans (HMAP). No funding should be spent to remove, fertility control, any action, until BLM creates a management plan for a herd.”
It really is that simple.
At this time we are extremely concerned about all of the wild horses left in the Eagle Complex. BLM pushed the population down to around 400 in the entire Complex. We hope they survive this fire, and any others that may arise this fire season.
This feels like a repeat of the Martin fire that hit the Owyhee.
We hope BLM gets out there and opens gates.
Please be careful traveling on public lands and do not start a fire. Our travel tips can be found here.
If you want to track the Miller fire in relation to the Eagle HMAP map below, you can click on the Inciweb page HERE. Always scroll down for the latest update that may not yet be reflected on the map.
We will continue to monitor and update this story.
The pursuits were relentless of the Eagle wild horses this year. We pray for those that escaped.
Help us stay in the fight today. We were offered a match to help kick our field teams into high gear! Any contribution made until July 5 will be matched up to $5,000.
Categories: Wild Horse Education