Wild Horse Education

Ochocco (Big Summit) Update

Rainy day with the Ochoco herd

Many of our readers are confused about the status of the Ochoco herd. We are providing this information as a status update. 

The Big Summit Wild Horse Territory (WHT) is located approximately 25 miles east of Prineville, Oregon. This WHT is the only wild horse population officially in the Pacific Northwest and is managed entirely by the US Forest Service. (note: Wild Horse Territory is the terminology used by US Forest Service that is the equivalent of the term Herd Management Area used by the BLM. The regions of Southeastern Oregon with wild horse populations are recognized as “Great Basin” territory.)

You can see the planning documents, including the unsigned final. The final remains unsigned because the “Objection” period has not been finalized. (documents HERE)

In November of 2020 USFS released a plan, that includes resetting the population level at 12-57 wild horses, (HERE).

This began the process USFS calls “Objection.” They utilize this process, since 2013, instead of the “Appeal” process many of you are familiar with in BLM decision processes.

USFS defines the Objection process:

Many projects and activities, and most land management plan amendments and revisions, are subject to a pre-decisional administrative review process, commonly referred to as an objection process. Direction for the project-level objection process is at 36 CFR 218, and for the planning objection process is at 36 CFR 219, subpart B. Under both processes individuals and entities may file objections after an environmental analysis document is completed and before a decision document is signed.

Similar to Forest Service appeal processes, responses to objections are provided by the next higher level line officer above the Forest Service official proposing to sign the project or land management plan decision.

Utilization cage at Ochoco

Wednesday, February 24, Us Forest Service held what they term a “resolution” conference. This process was essentially an extended oral comment period and does not resembled the process of court mediation that you may be familiar with. This process was also not like an oral argument in court. The process was rather informal and not all that filed an objection participated.

We participated and presented a baseline of our primary objection to the plan that it fails to meet one of the legal standards of crafting an Environmental Assessment (EA) and a few example within the document of that failure.

At this juncture Objections and the information obtained through the conference must be evaluated and responded to. This process must occur before the decision is signed, making it officially an “approved” agency action.

We can not tell you if any, or all, of the objections presented will be rectified prior to final approval at this time. Only when the final plan has been formalized can we determine any action that may need to be taken.There are multiple moving pieces and many individuals involved.

We hope this answers your questions about “what is happening with the Ochoco?”

A generous donor has offered to match contributions made to Wild Horse Education through the end of the month of February. Your contribution will be doubled, dollar for dollar, up to $5,000 to help us continue the battle to protect our wild ones.


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Categories: Wild Horse Education