The Spring Mountain Alliance (SMA) is a project ofAmerica’s Wild Horse Advocates (AWHA), which is a volunteer non-profit 501(c)3 organization of over 1400 concerned citizens, professionals and businesses, 90% from Southern Nevada.
SMA supports scientifically-sound management of a healthy range for recreation, wildlife and the last free-roaming bands of wild horses and burros in the in the Spring Mountains, west of Las Vegas. The Alliance’s ultimate goal is to increase wild horse and burro viewing opportunities for future generations of horse and wildlife enthusiasts, photographers, American and foreign visitors.
Geographic Area of an Experimental Wild Horse Management Plan
SMA proposes to limit wild horse population growth and improve range conditions in that portion of the Spring Mountain Complex where volunteers have maintained a detailed data base on wild horses since 2011. This Experimental Management Area will encompass a portion of the Federal Government’s Spring Mountains/ Wheeler Pass JMA (Joint Management Area) and the Johnnie JMA west and south of Highway 95, east of Highway 160 and the town of Pahrump, north of Lee Canyon (Highway 156) on the east side of the Spring Mountains, and north of Wallace Canyon on the west side of the Spring Mountains.
The Experimental Management Area will exclude Lee and Kyle Canyons; Wallace Canyon and the area south of Wallace Canyon; Mt. Charleston and Mt. Stirling Wilderness Areas, and the Red Rock JMA. View Map Here.
Within the Experimental Management Area, the Alliance proposes to:
1. Population Control with PZP Application by Remote Darting and/or Bait-Capture while preserving stable family and bachelor bands that offer the most interesting behaviors for tourists.
SMA recommends controlling wild horse populations by annual darting of all mares (except those allowed to have one foal for genetic diversity) with the proven 1-year PZP, (ZonaSat-H) that has 95% efficacy. Since the population and movement of wild horses within the Experimental Management Area has been well documented by the Alliance and since 3 volunteer teams are already certified for remote darting, we expect to be able to treat 80% to 100% of mares within the first two years. Thus herd growth may be reduced to near zero within 5-7 years.
The darting program would be modeled after the successful programs on Assateague Island, Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range, and Little Book Cliffs and follow standardized protocol. After the initial application of primer and booster doses in the first year, the annual booster darting could be staggered so that each mare would have one opportunity to add a foal to the gene pool.
The Alliance has not yet documented wild burros in the Experimental Management Area and PZP contraception of Jennies is a more complicated process. However, the Humane Society of the United States’ Platero Project is considering local partnerships to research contraception and increase local adoption of burros now that their funding is in place. The Spring Mountains may be an ideal area for such a research partnership because of the excellent habitat for burros and the already established volunteer base in Las Vegas/Pahrump.
2. Selective Removal of Adoptable Animals by Bait Capture at Staggered Intervals
In the Experimental Management Area, SMA recommends that USFS/BLM selectively remove only the most adoptable, easily trainable 2 to 4-year-old horses at staggered intervals instead of a single, large scale helicopter roundup and removal of almost all horses as advanced in the Federal agencies’ June 2013 scoping report.
A 2014-2015 helicopter roundup may result in an estimated 300-700 Spring Mountain horses and burros of all ages being ‘dumped’ on the adoption ‘market’ all at once, guaranteeing that most animals will not be adopted. When supply outweighs demand, most horses and burros go to costly long-term holding, an unnecessary burden to taxpayers.
Further, The National Academy of Sciences 2013 investigation, Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse & Burro Program: a Way Forward, found that “Decreased competition for forage through removals may instead allow population growth, which then drives the need to remove more animals. “
It is not necessary to roundup Spring Mountain wild horses and burros by helicopter. Wild horses in the Experimental Management Area are largely human-habituated due to the high usage of the range by off-road recreational vehicles, hikers and visitors. Their watering spots and movement patterns are well-known thus, it will be relatively easy to lure them into temporary pens by placing mineral blocks and/or hay inside, particularly in winter and spring.
The Alliance recommends staggering the bait-capture and removal of 2 to 4-year-old horses over a 1 to 2-year period to limit the number of animals released for adoption. Excess supply at one time vastly overwhelms the adoption demand, especially locally.
After treating all bait-captured mares with PZP, intact family bands would be released back onto the range to retain social stability. Scientific observation has shown that stable family bands can prevent early pregnancy of young mares, 3-years of age and under. Older horses and burros would also be returned to the range so their knowledge of local water and food sources is not lost in times of drought, fire or inhospitable conditions.
3. Aggressive Promotion Of Local Adoption
The Alliance would aggressively promote local adoption of the removed Spring Mountain horses and burros through their excellent contact base in local radio, television, and newspapers, website at http://springmountainalliance.org/, social networking of all kinds, equestrian newsletters and promotional materials at local riding events, libraries, schools, etc.
The Alliance can advise prospective owners and check back on their progress in conjunction with local USFS/BLM staff. Already the Alliance has documented over 20 local area adoptions mostly from Red Rock Canyon 2002-2004 removals.
4. Ongoing Population Data Base and Range Monitoring Projects
The relatively compact Experimental Management Area close to Las Vegas is an ideal area to test innovative population and range monitoring techniques due to its relatively small land mass, abundance of experienced volunteers, and its proximity to the University of Southern Nevada (UNLV).
Innovative monitoring techniques could include placing an identification microchip in each wild horse and burro at time of bait-capture, and experiment with state-of-the-art infrared cameras on mini-drones to trackhorse/burro movements across the range in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), etc.
BLM/USFS and SMA volunteers could work with UNLV and the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) to scientifically study inter-relationships between all wildlife including wild horses, burros, elk, deer and smaller mammals as they impact range health. Scholarships could be created for doctoral students from the University of Nevada and other universities to conduct trials of innovative, scientific methods for improving population estimates and assessing range management practices in critical forage areas.
The goal would be to maintain genetically diverse, healthy populations and the productivity of the range as recommended in the National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council’s 2013 report, Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: a Way Forward (ISBN 978-0-309-26494-5).
5. Organize volunteer work parties to improve viewing and protect habitat:
A) Alliance volunteers could increase and/or maintain wildlife guzzlers throughout the Spring Mountain Complex. Building water guzzlers and seasonal water retention basins across the range to disperse the grazing impact of elk and wild horses away from perennial springs. This should be the first priority for range improvement. It can be done in conjunction with local elk and big horn sheep protection groups and the Springs Stewardship Institute, Museum of Northern Arizona, http://springstewardship.org/springmountains.html.
B) Alliance volunteers can help fence horses off from ecologically sensitive areas if identified as problem areas by biologists. Private/public funds may be contributed to materials costs, Alliance volunteers supply labor.
C) Alliance volunteers will identify prime horse & burro viewing areas and enhance them where permitted. For example, volunteers can build viewing hides where visitors can watch herd behavior out of reach of horses or burros. Tour companies, hotels, airlines, etc. may invest in construction materials and Alliance volunteers contribute the labor. Alliance volunteers can monitor tourist behavior and educate them of correct ways of interacting with the wild ones.
D)Assist private business to develop tours for overseas visitors and American families by developing content for brochures on wild horse & burro behaviors that tour companies can print at their cost and assisting in uniform training of tour guides. The Alliance already maintains a tourist-friendly website, www.discoverwildhorses.com that educates the public about interesting behaviors of Spring Mountain horses & burros. The Alliance will also submit articles to domestic and international inflight magazines, travel boards, etc. to promote horse & burro tourism.