WINNEMUCCA – Five hundred horses belonging to Paiute and Shoshone tribal members will be removed from the range starting this week north of Winnemucca.
The Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe and the U.S. Forest Service will begin the first of a series of operations to remove domestic horses that are grazing without authorization on the Santa Rosa Ranger District.
“Over the past 30 years, the number of unauthorized tribally-owned horses grazing on tribal and public lands has steadily increased to the current population of over 2,500 horses,” said Santa Rosa District Ranger Joe Garrotto. “These horses are competing for forage with authorized livestock and native wildlife, overgrazing, harming ecosystems, and damaging fences and stock-watering facilities.”
A release from the Forest Service says Tribal Chairman Tildon Smart agreed that the horses are a major concern.
“They are causing safety issues for people driving on public and tribal lands and U.S. Route 95,” said Smart “They are also damaging important tribal natural and cultural resources.”
The removal operations will take place about 75 miles north of Winnemucca, adjacent tribal lands. Safeguards will ensure that wild, free-roaming horses from the Bureau of Land Management’s Little Owyhee Herd Management Area are not impacted, according to the Forest Service.
“The Forest Service will retain control of gathered horses until they are delivered to the tribal holding facility, where they will be inspected by a team of Tribal and Nevada State Brand Inspectors and Forest Service Wild Horse Specialists,” said Garrotto. “Forest Service personnel will also be on hand to record the ownership of horses to help with future management.”
The Tribe is responsible for returning the horses to their owners. Smart said tribal members will decide whether to sell or keep their horses and constrain them from further unauthorized grazing.
Opportunities for public viewing at daily removal operations are limited, since much of the activities will be on tribal lands and access to public lands is difficult without a high-clearance four wheel drive vehicle. Those wanting to view gather operations on public land may contact Public Affairs Staff Officer Erica Hupp at 775-771-4777 to discuss details. There will be no public access to tribal lands.