Wild Horse Education

What is a WHT? (A bit about Forest Service)

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages more wild horses and burros than all other jurisdictions combined. When we are talking about the ranges the Secretary of Interior designated for management of wild horses and burros, we use the term Herd Management Area (HMA).

When we are talking about the United States Forest Service (USFS) we are talking about the only other federal land management agency required to adhere to the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Forest Service, under the authority of the US Department of Agriculture, uses the term Wild Horse Territory, or WHT. Forest Service is also obligated to a “multi use mandate” where profit driven use of public lands is prioritized.

The BLM and USFS must comply with the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. However, each agency has its own discretion in how that law is carried out.

USFS has a lower budget and manages far fewer acres for wild horses and burros. Historically, the USFS simply takes BLM protocols and simply uses different terminology. Most WHT’s abut BLM land and roundups tend to happen jointly (officially and unofficially). This is one of the reasons you do not often see specifically Forest Service led roundups often, BLM just gets them off when they roundup bordering territory (even though that is not technically allowed).

Kelly Creek (USFS) and North Monitor (BLM)

At a glance:

BLM manages 247 million acres. Of that surface acreage, BLM has carved out about 26.9 million acres for use by wild horses and burros. On that acreage, BLM claims to have about 80,000 wild horses and burros and wants to get that number down to 26,785. 

USFS manages 196 million acres. Of that surface acreage, USFS has carved out only 2.5 million acres for use by wild horses and burros. USFS wants to get the number to around 7,000 wild horses and 900 burros.

Devils Garden

When we hear about roundups involving USFS, the public is most familiar with Devils Garden. There will be another roundup of 500 wild horses beginning next week in Modoc County, Devils Garden. The process of adopting a Devils Garden horse runs through the one of the only corral systems overseen solely by USFS, Double Devil. USFS says there are currently 1,339 wild horses in the Garden. They say only 206-402 can live on the range.

Over the next two weeks you will hear more about the Garden, the struggle to advocate for the wild ones and about the horses that will need homes after the roundup.

Monitor/Stone Cabin

One WHT you are familiar with, but may not know it, is Monitor. 

The new Stone Cabin/Saulsbury removal plan put out by BLM (we are challenging that plan) is more than simply likely to hit the Monitor WHT. 

The Stone Cabin HMA is located approximately 30 miles east of Tonopah in Nye County directly off Highway 6, both north and south. Saulsbury is just to the West, a couple of miles off the highway both north and south. The Monitor USFS WHT is located in between the Saulsbury and Stone Cabin HMAs (and it is worth noting that no studies have been done to show which populations spend more time on BLM or USFS land denoting jurisdiction for removal or population growth suppression tools). The total approved target area represents 542,724 acres within the Stone Cabin Complex HMAs, and 343,457 acres outside of designated HMAs, in areas primarily adjacent to HMAs where wild horses have moved or may move to during gather activities. (If you note the observation about the Monitor WHT, this language also means wild horses that call USFS Monitor “Home Range” and may flee back home. The Monitor WHT is 380,000 acres (and we known USFS has not done much monitoring out there for 50 years, instead relying on BLM to remove Monitor horses each time a Stone Cabin roundup takes place.) BLM notes that any gather inside Monitor would require a decision from USFS… but we know from documenting roundups at Stone Cabin for over a decade, that this is not “how the chopper flies.”)

Kelly/North Monitor

Kelly Creek/North Monitor is an area you have probably not heard mention of often. Kelly is the larger of the two and managed by USFS. North Monitor managed by BLM only has an AML (number of horses “allowed”) set of 6-8 horses on a total of 11,512 acres. BLM wanted to zero out the area primarily due to conflicts with livestock grazing but recognized horses from Kelly would move in and out of the area.

In this area many of you know of BLM herds called Fish Creek, Seven Mile and Pancake. The “way the chopper flies” and the way the horses move, we have all seen horses that spend most of their time on USFS land get rounded up by BLM… even though USFS has not done any work out there in decades.

As the roundup gets underway at Devil’s Garden, we ask that you give a bit of thought to the complexity of jurisdictions when advocating for a species that lives in wild places. Wild places are managed by multiple state and federal agencies. When we use the words “wild horses” in a legal context, we are talking about horses on BLM and USFS land. When we are talking about a wild horse removed from those lands that faces problems after adoption or sale, we are in the realm of domestic animal law.

Like environmental advocates we need to understand different jurisdictional processes. However, not only does a wild horse and burro advocate have to understand the distinctions in how a wild free-roaming being is treated differently in each federal or state agency, we need to understand how to protect that being once it enters the world of man and enters domestic law. Nowhere do the layers of the challenges of being an advocate for wild horses become crystal clear is when we are dealing with the issue of slaughter (more HERE).

Steeldust grey from StoneCabin/Saulsbury/Monitor at BLM corral, 2012

In the coming weeks you may find yourself frustrated with new terminology coming from Devils Garden and feel a bit confused. Just remember you know the process already, but acronyms created by one agency or another might sound different, but mean the same things. You know more than you may think you do about USFS wild ones.

The biggest distinction will be how you talk to your lawmakers. The budget for BLM is written into the Department of Interior and every year we see a lot of action items geared toward funding for BLM. The budget for Forest Service is written under the Department of Agriculture. WHE deals primarily with BLM (as more horses are managed by BLM than all other jurisdictions combined), so most of our action items address the Dept. of Interior (BLM) food chain.

Next week, we will give you more information on how to advocate for funding and the wild ones that live on USFS land.

Our team has been out on the range and we went to see some of the wild ones that live on BLM land, USFS land and the spaces that cross in between. We wanted to share a bit with you.

Our lawsuit to gain an enforceable welfare standard is moving through briefing in the courts. (We will update you soon)

Many of you are asking how to access daily reports from the Antelope Complex roundup as the operation was a bit of an anomaly (two simultaneous crews). We created a resource page that has a bit of background and an archive that organized the massive operation. You can find it HERE.

Our wild ones should live free on the range with the families they hold dear. Our wild ones should also live without abuse. 

Thank you for keeping us in the fight!

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Categories: Wild Horse Education