The U.S. Forest Service has dropped from $25 to $1 the price for all remaining wild horses at its Double Devil Corrals at Modoc National Forest.
As of Jan. 6, 180 wild horses remained ranging in age from months-old foals to more than 21 years of age. The agency reduced the price on Jan. 10.
The horses are being sold with restrictions against slaughter. The lower price increases concerns about the horses falling into the hands of kill buyers, however.
A total of 499 wild horses were captured in a helicopter roundup last fall Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory near Alturas, Calif.
Of those, 344 were kept at the forest’s Double Devil Corrals to be offered for adoption or sale, with the balance transported to the Bureau of Land Management’s Litchfield Corrals near Susanville, Calif.
In keeping with federal sale authority law, all of the wild horses at the Double Devil Corrals were put up for sale after being passed over for adoption three times. They were available for $25 each for 30 days, according to Modoc National Forest.
The U.S. Forest Service’s stated reason for removing the horses from the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory, home to California’s last large wild horse herd, at Modoc National Forest: “Reducing the population will allow range and riparian ecological conditions to recover, while also supporting wild horse herd health by reducing competition for limited food, water and habitat.”
Prior to the roundup, the USFS estimated that there were 1,802 wild horses on Devil’s Garden, which is located at Modoc National Forest. The agency-set Appropriate Management Level is 206-402 horses — as low as one horse for every 1,305 acres.
By comparison, USFS permits 26,880 Animal Unit Months of private grazing on the wild horse territory. One Animal Unit Month is defined as a month’s forage for one horse, one cow / calf pair or five sheep. Actual livestock use varied between 63-73% of the permitted maximum from 2006-12, according to USFS planning documents.
USFS did not treat and release any mares with safe, proven and humane fertility control vaccines, which would curb reproduction and calls for future roundups. In fact, 16 mares previously treated with fertility control were among the wild horses recaptured and put up for adoption or sale.
The roundup follows another in fall 2018 during which 932 wild horses were captured and removed from Devil’s Garden.
Return to Freedom and other advocates sued USFS after the agency announced unprecedented plans just before the 2018 roundup to sell older wild horses captured during without protections against slaughter. That case is ongoing. In May, U.S. District Judge James Donato ordered advocates and USFS to engage in settlement talks.
A stipulated prohibition remained in place as the suit progressed, barring the agency from selling the horses without restriction. During that time, USFS was able to adopt or sell the remaining older wild horses, which were kept in corrals at Modoc National Forest, with restrictions in place. That included a dozen horses taken in by RTF’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary.
USFS had been seeking to take advantage of a loophole in which Congress had barred BLM from selling horses to slaughter but had not expressly forbidden USFS from doing do. RTF successfully lobbied to have both agencies prevented from selling horses or burros without restriction in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget as well as from killing healthy horses or burros.