The Spring Mountain Alliance has had a very busy year in 2012 working to save the wild horses & burros of Southern Nevada for future generations.
Below is a recap of this past year:
From February to April 2012, over 1400 individuals and firms signed on as supporters of the Spring Mountain Alliance, which offered a volunteer plan to: dart wild mares and jennies with PZP, a proven contraceptive that could halt births in at least 85% of the population; bait-capture and remove easily trainable young horses and burros for local adoption while leaving survival savvy mature horses and burros on the range; to improve tourism viewing opportunities of wild horses and burros; and raise funds for regular scientific census-taking and analysis of range conditions.
Director Arlene Gawne presented the Spring Mountain Alliance management proposal and over 1400 signatures of your signatures to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director, Bob Abbey, in Washington DC on April 19, 2012. Director Abbey was impressed with the degree of detail and the public support for our plan. He said that it fit well into the BLM’s goal of creating more jobs for Las Vegas on public land. The Spring Mountain Alliance also received support for this innovative ecotourism plan at the offices of many House representatives and Senators including Nevada Representative Joe Heck.
On June 8, 2012, the Spring Mountain Alliance website was launched at www.springmountainalliance.org
Unfortunately Director Abbey resigned in June 2012 just as meetings were being arranged with BLM Wild Horse & Burro Chief Joan Guilfoyle and Nevada BLM personnel.
On July 11-12, Arlene Gawne and SMA volunteer C.W. Nihan met with US Forestry Service (USFS) and BLM representatives including Joan Guilfoyle and Nevada’s Wild Horse & Burro lead Alan Shepherd. Although discussion was valuable and a field trip to the Cold Creek area west of Highway 95 very interesting, serious divisions remain between SMA and BLM positions including:
– BLM made it clear that their statutory responsibility was range health, NOT wild horse & burro ecotourism viewing opportunities or ecotourism job creation for Southern Nevada. BLM maintained their estimated 2012 wild horse & burro populations were far higher than a healthy range could sustain.
– According to the BLM, “The number of wild horses and burros which can graze without causing damage to the range is called the Appropriate Management Level (AML). In establishing the AML, BLM relies on an intensive monitoring program over several years involving studies of grazing utilization, trend in range condition, actual use, precipitation (climate) and other factors. AML is based on consideration of wildlife, permitted livestock, and wild horses and burros in the area.” Note: NO livestock grazing permits are allowed in the Spring Mountains.
– SMA maintained that BLM’s wild horse & burro population figures are overestimated, the AML levels are far too low, and the proposed removal of between 58% (high AML) to 80% (low AML) of wild horses & burros will make ecotourism nearly impossible while threatening genetic diversity of the animals.
– BLM planned to remove the horses by February 2013. They invited SMA to make an alternative proposal to include in an Environmental Assessment (EA), however they refused to consider a no-gather alternative.
However, in late September 2012, the Alliance received official notice that the February 2013 Spring Mountain Complex gather was temporarily postponed due to budget restraints and lack of holding space for wild horses and burros that cannot be adopted in today’s weak economy. BLM is now holding nearly 50,000 horses in pastures and feedlots in the Midwest at a huge cost to taxpayers.
On the positive side, the Alliance made several presentations of its ecotourism proposal in September. The first was to the Clark County Advisory Board (CCAB) to the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW). This is important since 15% of Spring Mountain forage and water is given to non-native Roosevelt elk while wild horses are only allotted 7%. However, wild horse viewing can generate far more jobs locally than the approximately 200 deer and 8 elk hunting tags issued each year for that area.
The second presentation was to over 170 people attending the second annual Equine Welfare Alliance conference in September in Las Vegas. The response was overwhelmingly positive. The Alliance led 26 guests on a tour to view wild horses at the lower elevations around Cold Creek. Due to the unusually heavy rains in late summer, there was plenty of new grass here and wild horses for the visitors to see. The reaction was spectacular as the visitors watched young foals soak in the lower pond and then frisk alongside their mothers as they marched back to the fresh grazing. People from different parts of the U.S. and Canada described this trip as a memory of a lifetime, which they would heartily recommend to friends and family.
Meanwhile in Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area, the BLM plans to spend over one million dollars to spray two herbicides on non-native grasses alongside hiking trails and roads to create fuel breaks. The Red Rock Canyon wild horses were removed in 2002 and in 2004; in 2005 the hottest fire in recorded history burned nearly 800 acres of the canyon. The Alliance argues that it would be cheaper and wiser to restore some wild horses to Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area. The wild ones could eat the spring grasses at little or no cost to the taxpayer and add a major attraction to the conservation area.
In September, BLM gathered about 30 burros in and around the village of Blue Diamond, south of Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area. Sadly some of these burros had been hand-fed by tourists until they became a nuisance on the highway and in the village. It is essential that the public do not feed burros or wild horses as feeding will result in more roundups. There is a $500 fine for feeding the wild ones. One burro, Okole, became buddy to Kamalani, a Wheeler Pass wild horse adopted years ago by local rider, Matt Naito. Within a week, Matt took Okole back for a brief visit through his home range.
The Alliance is currently working on an alternative management proposal for inclusion in an Environmental Assessment (EA) that must be prepared by the federal agency prior to any possible 2013 roundup. Management would include bait-trapping of family bands by volunteers working with BLM staff instead of a costly and potentially disruptive helicopter roundup; selective removal of young horses 2 to 4 years of age then offered for local adoption; SMA volunteers would dart all mares with a one year contraceptive (PZP) then release horses in their family bands back to the range.
In conjunction with local horse-riding and wilderness groups, the Alliance is now planning range improvement projects including installation and maintenance of temporary guzzlers to disperse grazing animals (elk included), reseeding of grasses in some areas, clear-cutting of small areas of pinyon and juniper to encourage herbage growth for grazers, etc.
Would you be able to volunteer some time to save our local wild horses and burros? Please click here to indicate what types of projects you could work on.
The Alliance needs funds now for detailed range analysis by professionals and materials for work projects. Please click here to contribute whatever you can afford. Every little bit helps. You will be funding a healthy future for our local wild horses & burros and for local ecotourism jobs.