The U.S. Forest Service announced on Tuesday that it will begin a 500 wild horse helicopter roundup at Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory on Sept. 5.
The roundup follows another in fall 2018 during which 932 wild horses were captured and removed from 268,750-acre Devil’s Garden, which is located in Modoc National Forest near Alturas, Calif.
USFS’s stated reason for removing wild horses: “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.”
USFS estimates that there are now 1,802 wild horses on Devil’s Garden. The agency-set “Appropriate Management Level” is 206-402 horses — or 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’s plans for next month’s roundup do not include treating and releasing mares with safe, proven and humane fertility control vaccines, which would curb reproduction and reduce calls for future roundups.
About 300 of the wild horses that USFS plans to capture will be kept at the Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals in Alturas, where they will be offered for adoption or sale. The balance will be sent to the Bureau of Land Management’s Litchfield Corrals near Susanville, Calif.
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 recently moved to RTF’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary.
USFS will allow a limited number of members of the public to view the roundup on a first-come, first-served basis. To reserve a place, call (530) 233-8738. Viewers must arrive by 7 a.m. on their schedule day at 225 W. Eighth St. in Alturas to follow forest personnel to a parking location, then hike to a viewing location where they will remain on site for the until that day’s operation is complete.