The emergency roundup was one of four announced over a five-day period that the agency said was needed due to a lack of water and forage. In each case, BLM cited “declining health of the wild horses associated with herd overpopulation.”
On the Antelope Valley Herd Management Area, BLM captured and removed the 21 studs, 23 mares
The population of wild horses on the Herd Management Area before the roundup was estimated by BLM at 953 wild horses, including foals.
The Antelope Valley HMA covers 463,540 acres of public and private lands. Its agency-set Appropriate Management Level is set at 155 to 259 wild horses, or as low as one horse for every 2,991 acres.
All of the Antelope Valley HMA is open to the grazing of private cattle, with a maximum allotment of 5,376 Animal Unit Months. One Animal Unit Month is defined as a month’s forage for one horse, one cow / calf pair or five sheep. Actual livestock grazing use from 2008-18 averaged 883 AUM, or 16% of the maximum.
The BLM’s Wild Horse and Burros Management Handbook notes that “emergencies generally are unexpected events that threaten the health and welfare of a [wild horse and burro] population and/or their habitat. Examples of emergencies include fire, insect infestation, disease, or other events of a catastrophic and unanticipated nature. Immediate action is normally required.”
Under BLM policy, Environmental Assessments (EAs) for roundups are to be issued such that the public has 30 days to review and comment. Decisions to proceed are to be issued 14 days before a roundup commences. Declaring an emergency situation allows the agency to avoid those steps.
RTF recognizes that there will be emergency situations that threaten the health of wild horses and burros, especially as climate change accelerates in the West. However, it is incumbent upon BLM to work to anticipate the needs of the wild horses and burros under its management in order to comply with requirements for public transparency and the consideration of options under the National Environmental Policy Act. Thoughtful advance planning will also allow for the judicious implementation of proven, safe and humane fertility control that can reduce the need for roundups.
BLM has no plans to treat any wild mares or burro jennies during any of the recently announced emergency roundups with save, proven and humane fertility control that would reduce calls for future roundups.