Heat Index (Roundups, Climate Change, Take Action)

When we think of public lands and broad scale issues involving climate change, the focus tends to revolve around things like energy development; the Presidential Executive Order of 2021 (Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad) and the new proposed rule to elevate conservation issues that includes fast-tracking mitigation for what is being referenced as “clean energy.” The role natural systems play in carbon sequestration is also gaining overdue attention.

How federal agencies create management plans for public lands is changing. Regulations are requiring that agencies analyze climate change factors.

Climate change will also impact activities such as roundups. 

Video from the Antelope North operation taken yesterday. It IS actual foaling season on the range. BLM has never gathered site-specific data to determine foaling season (through the Herd Management Area Plan, HMAP) prior to creating foaling season deviation through fertility control. BLM is prohibited from helicopter drive trapping during foaling season. The prohibition is in place because even BLM recognizes that this is an extremely vulnerable time for a herd. 

Yesterday we released an action item. 

We ask that you continue to take the action as a heat wave descends over the roundup area in eastern Nevada. (More HERE)

BLM has basically responded saying what you would expect: they have a veterinarian onsite, their people will do any evaluation and they will conduct the operation safely because they comply with CAWP. These exchanges (when we are talking about preventative measures to avoid abuse) also always come with a dismissive measure that suggests they do not appreciate the input and we have absolutely no reason to doubt the “expertise” of BLM on all things.

A common phrase associated with climate change is “We Don’t Have Time.” That phrase applies here.

During roundups BLM reads our website. This article is presented as much for them as it is for you. 

BLM still relies on old cowboy myth, particularly in the wild horse program. Things like “blue-eyed horses are blind” is something many of you have seen expressed and only recently has that myth moved a bit off the table.

We don’t have time for BLM to recognize Air Quality Index (AQI) and Heat Index as terms they need to include in the CAWP policy. 

BLM is extremely slow in addressing any change in how they operate (not just with wild horses). In the Wild Horse and Burro Program the reaction time to new rules or information can take even longer.

It took 45 years (since the 1971 Act passed) for them to just write a welfare standard and only after relentless litigation. That policy was officially adopted in fall 2015 (fiscal year 2016) and it took until 2021 for them to even hire someone to lead a welfare team. There has not been one revision. 

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New terms are being given more focus in the media. Terms such as “Heat Index” will be more frequently mentioned in weather broadcasts as summer heat hits human environments. A whole slew of supplements and products are hitting the market to help your domestic horse deal with heat stress. 

Beyond a simple temperature, the Heat Index includes factors like humidity. It does not simply indicate how hot it is, it gives you a more concise measure of how that heat will impact you. *It should also be noted that BLM only takes a temperature in the shade to post on their roundup reports and “comply” with CAWP. They do not use temps in other valleys or rises (where the horses are driven, and they do not monitor heat index.)

Activity makes heat. Working muscle generates heat increasing the risk. This is why activity is limited based on the heat index and the duration of the heat index. 

These guidelines apply to performance domestic horses: When the heat index is between 80 and 90, mild caution should be used for exercising horses. Between 91 and 102, extreme caution should be used. Between 103 and 124, heat stress may become dangerous and above 124 you should avoid exercising a horse due to extreme danger.In addition, it is not only a single moment of a high index, it is also the duration of the heat stress; multiple consecutive days of a high index can heighten the negative effects on the horse.

Video below: At the start of trapping at North Antelope a newborn was in the area and trapped first. Yes, first thoughts match yours and we wonder how many of this age were left. on the range during the drives during actual foaling season that took place far from the trap. Trust is earned. The way BLM has treated welfare issues and transparency has not earned any public trust,

EDIT: Our worst gears were realized and this newborn was found dead in the pen in the morning, apparently from colic.

In addition to activity level, age and health will impact how you deal with the Heat Index. Older, younger, compromised, low fat diets, all contribute to an increased risk of impact from a high Heat Index.

As we write this at 7:47 a.m., the Heat Index at the temporary holding corrals is at 83, already entering the “caution” area. (Edit: At 1 p.m. today, the heat index hit 90, nearing the “extreme caution zone.”) Temperatures today are expected to hit around 95 in the North Antelope operation and 92 in the South operation. The index will hover between the “Extreme Caution” zone and begin to edge to the “Danger” zone. By Sunday, the “Extreme Danger Zone” is highly probable. 

Temperatures in the Antelope North operation area are expected to exceed 100 degrees Friday, reaching 105 by Sunday and lasting into Monday (breaking records). Temperatures in the South operation area will be slightly lower. 

A trap can remain at a single location for days. The wild horses you see come into the trap are not the only ones that ran that day; they are also not the only animal running from the disturbance caused by a roundup. Disruption from the roundup will likely compound impacts due to heat in horses (and other species) traveling to waters left available for their use (and not turned off to rest an area from domestic livestock or dried up due to water table drawdown from mining).

Heat stress, a lack of water, etc. can cause immediate collapse and other issues. However, a horse does not have to drop dead at trap for a death to be roundup related. Dozens could die from heat related colic after being shipped to short-term corrals hundreds of miles from trap.

Original forecasts in the trap zone area had Heat Index warnings from Saturday through Monday. The warnings have been extended through Thursday. We had originally asked that, at minimum, BLM consider suspending operations Sunday through Tuesday. Perhaps that suspension should be of a longer duration? 

The Heat Index Warnings are being sent with maps showing the areas of greatest concern… they are right where BLM is conducting both the North and South operations. The entire northern area of Nevada from Reno to Wendover is under advisement.

Our concerns should not be dismissed. WHE has had 15 years of experience dealing with BLM on issues of abuse. BLM may like to present that they are the only experts on wild horse welfare. We have our own expertise in this field… and BLM has a lousy track record moving with any expedience to address abuse. 

Please continue to add your name to the list of letters heading to the State Director.

WHE will be engaging other avenues today to give BLM the push they always seem to need.

We ask that you join us in sending a letter.

>> Just click HERE to send your letter to the BLM NV State Director. << 

BLM State Director John Raby,

I am writing to you to ask that you suspend the roundup operations in the Elko and Ely District through Tuesday.
A dangerous heatwave is heading to the area and being reported, repeatedly, on the news. Horse owners are receiving warnings that even include prohibiting light exercise of their domestic equines. 
Temperatures in the Antelope North operation area are expected to exceed 100 degrees, reaching 105 by Sunday. 
The agency is required to make provisions in all planned projects that include how climate change will impact the area. These considerations must include wild horse roundups.
As no policy currently exists specifically to address increasing impacts of climate change on wild horse roundups, it falls to the State Director to show leadership. 
Please suspend operations. 



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Categories: Lead