August 9, 2010 – North Boundary Fence, Part 2

In better understanding the origins of the proposed north boundary fence, I think it is important to first understand the bigger picture of East Pryor Mountain. East Pryor Mountain, home of the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range, is covered by different uses and designations. These different uses and designations determine what can happen in different parts of East Pryor Mountain. In today’s post, we will be looking at different maps to better understand this. To view a larger version of each of these maps, please feel free to click on them.

Let’s start with a basic overview of East Pryor Mountain. Below is a representation of the topography of the mountain.

Centered in the above map is the mountain. The brown dotted lines and the black line, which will remain consistent throughout all maps, are the roads through the area. On the left side of the map, you can see the east side of adjacent Big Pryor Mountain. Between Big Pryor Mountain and East Pryor Mountain is the Crooked Creek drainage area, which can be seen as the blue line on the left side of the map. The area east of Crooked Creek is East Pryor Mountain. The west side of East Pryor Mountain is defined by the escarpment I described in the previous post about the fence. The escarpment can be seen as a steep shaded area just right off of the center of the map.

East Pryor Mountain, and the surrounding areas, are covered by lands managed by different entities. Below is a map showing these different lands.

Comparing this map with the topography map above, you will be able to see how the two match up. The colors on this map represent land managed by the following:

  • Green: Forest Service land
  • Yellow: Bureau of Land Management land
  • Purple: National Park Service land
  • Light blue: State land
  • Orange: Tribal land
  • White: Private land

Essentially, any part of the map that isn’t white is public land. As can be seen, most of this public land is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, with the Forest Service and National Park Service also having significant holdings.

Within these areas, there are additional uses and designations. Starting from the west, the first of the designated areas are the livestock allotments. The map shows approximate locations for both Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management allotments. These are shown below map as the dark blue areas.

As can be seen, the allotments cover the most western parts of East Pryor Mountain. Most of the allotments are on Big Pryor Mountain. The East Pryor allotments are mostly bound on the east by Cave Canyon.

A significant area of East Pryor Mountain has been designated as special lands, such as Wilderness Study Areas, Recommended Wilderness, and the like. The map below shows most of these areas in a lime green color.

Lastly, much of East Pryor Mountain is covered by the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range, shown as the orange polygon in the map below.

Combining all of these different ownerships, designations, and uses, we can see that East Pryor Mountain is surprisingly complex. Again, only the white areas on the map are private. Everything else is public land.

But what does this mean for the north boundary fence? Let’s focus on that area now. In this below map, you can see the areas shown above: The dark blue allotments, the lime green special areas, and the red Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range. Also, the current location of the north boundary fence is shown as a thick red line.

Notice that the north boundary fence separates the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range from a lime green area. This lime green area is the Lost Water Canyon Research Natural Area. The fence also separates the Range from a plain green area: Forest Service land without any designations. This area is known as the Pryor Spur. It is an old livestock allotment that is currently closed to any grazing. For those familiar with the area, Dryhead Vista is on the Pryor Spur.

The north boundary fence is being built to purposefully keep the Pryor Mountain Wild Horses from the Lost Water Canyon RNA, the Pryor Spur, and the areas west of there. Why? First off, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 has been interpreted as saying that wild horses must be managed only in the areas originally set aside for them. (For more information on this as applied to the PMWHR, please click here for a previous post.) Second, planning processes have not allowed for the wild horses to enter the areas that the fence is supposed to keep them out of. In the above maps, I have shown a number of different uses and designations on East Pryor Mountain. Stakeholders representing these different areas may or may not want wild horses there. Whether you agree with them or not, it is reality that planning processes have unfolded the way they have to lead to the current situation.

To sum this all up, wild horses are not currently authorized to inhabit areas outside of the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range. This doesn’t mean that wild horses will always be unable to go to areas that are currently outside of the Range. There is always a possibility that the Range can be expanded. However, the Range is what it is now; and this is where wild horses must be managed. Again, we may not all agree with this; but this is reality.

With that, let’s go back to a frequently asked question: What becomes of those lands on the other side of the north boundary fence if it is completed? Well, based on the research I have done, really nothing at all will change. Many people have asked me about things they have heard regarding the opening of these areas to livestock grazing. At this time, there are no plans for opening these areas to livestock grazing. First off, as I understand it, the Lost Water Canyon RNA, and adjacent Lost Water Canyon Recommended Wilderness, cannot be easily opened to grazing at all. These are special areas that were set aside. The Pryor Spur, north of the Lost Water Canyon areas, has again been closed to grazing. Reopening this area to livestock grazing would require a new public planning process. Thus, there are definite obstacles to opening these areas to grazing; and again, the Forest Service currently has no plans to overcome these obstacles and have livestock out there.

The second question I’d like to answer is about getting the wild horses onto the right side of the fence. Honestly, at this time, there are a few horses that are spending most of their time off of the Range. If the north boundary fence is rebuilt, then the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management will work together to carry out the following plan: There will be sections of the fence intentionally left open. These sections will act as areas for the wild horses to enter the Range. Once there are no horses off of the Range, the open sections will be closed.

I have also had questions about where I stand on this fence issue. I actually have thought about this issue a lot, and I have spent a lot of time talking with different stakeholders to refine my thoughts on it over the past years. I have many ideas about this fence, but I’m only wanting to report some of the facts for now. Later, maybe we will go into my ideas for expanding the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range. Until then, though, please let me know if there are any other questions you’d like answered. I’ll be continuing this series with some maps showing where the proposed north boundary fence would go.

Thank you for your time and patience with this. I do feel it is very important to fully understand this issue before making any conclusions on it.

Published in: on August 9, 2010 at 8:46 pm  Comments (22)  

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  1. Thank you Matt for taking the time to explain this.

  2. An excellent blog Matt. You put a lot of research into this and it sure makes things easier to understand. Thanks.

  3. Matt, Thank you for all the information that you provide. Keep up the good work. I would like to mention that I live about 40 miles from Omaha,NE and at this time there is an Art Exhibit until Septemeber covering the Pryor Mountain Wild Horses. I can get you the details if you would like. However, you are probably aware of this event.

    • I am the photographer who has the exhibit going on in Omaha. Please let me know if you want any more information about it. I took many of the photos at the PMWHR this past summer. Matt was with our group but he may not be aware of the exhibit.

  4. My question is, these horses have or have not..historically used this route in migration? The answer seems obvious to me if they keep pushing over the fence, that they have..and if there are no plans now..or in the future…LOL to utilize this land…What is the value?..other than to prove a point..that they can..I would think over the amount of time this has been utilized by these horses it could be considered theirs by adverse possession..It seems more an exercise in prooving they are the boss, and there seems to be a resentment that has nothing to do with logic.

    • “my thoughts exactly…thanks; Anna

    • Historically, as in pre-1971, it is likely that there were horses off of the Range in these lands. Evidence suggests that there were many wild horses (both the “Pryor type horse” and horses turned out by local homesteaders) all across the greater Pryor Mountain area through the early 1900’s. The vast majority of these horses were removed or killed; today’s herd is descended from the last of these horses that were left. In 1971, it is very possible that there were horses going into these areas. However, there is no concrete documentation of this (hence today’s predicament). From what I have gathered, the Pryor horses have been going off of the Range like this for the past 20 or so years. Prior to that, it seems as though there were more aggressive attempts made at keeping the horses on the Range. Why were things different during the past 20 years? There were different people involved, and each of these people had different ways in which they worked with these horses.

      The fence has different value depending on which stakeholder you ask. As you have seen, there are a number of different stakeholders involved with East Pryor Mountain. Though there are many wild horse people who would like to see the Range expanded, there are others who are just as passionate about having the horses stay on the current Range. I was once told that there are people who go up and are just as happy to see cows grazing up there as they are to see the wild horses. I wouldn’t doubt this statement at all. Further, I am sure that there are people who would be quite happy to see that there were no cows or wild horses up there either. Others could probably care less about any of these issues as long as they had a place to ride their ATVs. I could go on here, but my point is that there are a lot of people who are passionate about getting to do different things in the Pryors.

      That said, I honestly don’t see this about the Forest Service having some sort of attitude problem about the horses. I think that the Forest Service is going in a direction that is consistent with rules and regulations. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the fact that there are anti-expansion stakeholders involved further adds pressure to enforce these rules and regulations. These people really aren’t doing anything wrong; they are trying to rightfully (as in they are legally in the right) defend what they believe in.

      This issue has gained incredible political momentum over the past couple of years, and it was already gaining momentum in the years prior to that.

      I am not trying to defend any agencies or stakeholders here. I just think that it is important to know the different sides to this story as these different sides are a big part of it.

      • Not to belabor the point, but I don’t think much of the rest of the world ever heard about the pryors until the cloud series came along..I sure didn’t and I have traveled alot of the western country exploring..and that is also the case with many of the areas where the HMAs are..I just find it extremely odd that after 20 years its an issue and seems to coincide with the recognition factor of cloud and the pryor horses and last years contentious you say it revolves around the current people in charge…but are these the same individuals who were cooking horsemeat at the roundup last year? or I guess that was the vet tech,,or is that just another rumor?

      • I am not old enough to answer this question from experience. However, based on what people who are have told me, I believe that the Pryor horses and this Range were known. The Range received attention from people looking to get protection for all of the Nation’s wild horses and burros. They were featured in magazine articles, including one in National Geographic. Books were written, including those of Hope Ryden. A number of photographers used to come out and photograph the herd. Researchers have come here since the early 70’s. I think that relative to the attention given other herds over time, the Pryor horses have always been pretty well known. Today, wild horses are more in the spotlight; and so I can see what you mean about the past 20 years. However, we can’t forget about the other 20+ years of history here prior to that.

        There certainly have been a lot of things happening fast here lately. I don’t know if I am right in saying this, but this is the way I see things: This herd and this Range had perhaps not been managed in ways totally consistent with policies and laws during the past 20 or so years. For a few years now, there have been new managers here who would like to see the herd be more compliant. As such, there have been decisions made to make this start to happen. Thus, in the past few years, there have been decisions made to resolve issues that took many years to develop. Does this make sense?

        I’m confused as to what you are referring to with the people cooking horsemeat at the 2009 gather. As you said, it must be another rumor; there were plenty spawned from that gather.

  5. […] 30, 2010 – North Boundary Fence, Part 1 and August 9, 2010 – North Boundary Fence, Part 2 from Matt Dillon, Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang […]

  6. I wonder if the recent concern about fencing off the area has anything to do with it being an RNA? Isn’t that a fairly recent development?

  7. Thanks Matt, appreciate your response and the quality of your maps.

  8. I understand the history of how the Pryor Range was established with its arbitrary boundaries, but I’m still not sure why those boundaries on the map aren’t flexible. I’ve always been one for asking what might be possible, not just settling for the bare minimum. What is the Pryor Mustang Center’s position on ways to increase the range? If that whole mountaintop was, historically, part of the horses’ range, why not propose that the range be increased to include it. When our family was there last month, we counted 80+ horses one morning on the mountaintop–all on the Forest Service land. They were there because of the lush green high mountain meadows on which to graze and the cool snow fields that remained there. So it seems that is part of all their historic range, not just the “forest service” horses. Increasing their range would enhance their food and water sources–thus enhance the herd’s viability. I would love to visit this topic more.

    • Hello,
      The boundaries aren’t flexible because there is nothing in current laws, policies, or local plans that allow for them to be. Quite the opposite is true; the horses may only be within the areas that were originally set aside for them. I think you’re right, it is time to talk about these points a little bit more. You bring up two things I’d like to talk about: What is the Center’s opinion on this, and what would the benefit of range expansion actually be?

  9. Just being the practical ranch person i am, I wouldn’t buy a new ranch if my horses kept getting out…I would replace the fence..In other words for the costs of all these roundups and long term holding costs into the future and the various costs being heaped on the taxpayer, wouldn’t it be cheaper to replace the management??? bunkhouse logic 101

    • Well, to answer this, I will speak from the perspective of being involved with this Range. The Range is fenced, and there is just only so much forage within that fenced area. A finite amount of forage can only support a finite number of horses. Because this situation is artificial, it is likely that there will need to be some artificial management going on too. There is a way that costs associated with roundups and long term holding could be reduced in many herds; it is fertility control.

      • Glad you brought this up. I read this week on the Denver 4CBS news site that the BLM is considering/planning to do additional immuno-contraception treatments of PZP on the Pryor mares. This all seems premature as they would want yo wait until there are some real statistics of the effectiveness of the PZP administered 9/09. (The 2010 foal crop was already in utero last Sept.) Will HSUS do the darting? What can you tell us about this?

      • Linda,
        There was a scoping notice sent out for the development of a new fertility control program here. At this stage, this is the only thing that is really known. It isn’t necessarily too early to do more treatments – I think you’d find that it is recommended to keep consistent with treatments once they start. The thing about PZP plans is they can be really strategic. A gather tends to require catching and removing a lot of horses; with PZP you can be more adaptive over time. There are many different ways in which you can treat a herd; it just depends what the goals are there. I think that this is something that is good about this scoping notice; it allows everyone to start thinking about the goals for the management of this herd with PZP.

  10. Here is where we get into the silly said the current out of bounds range has no current or future plans for is purely an enforcement issue, undertaken by new management personel..there for -it has not previously been cut and dried and no one was thrown in jail for letting those horses graze that side of the fence..the round ups and holding and PZP are putting an enourmous burden on the american taxpayer…and many of those people have yet to find out but will come oct when the appropriations bill comes up…and since we do foot the bill, we will have considerable say, and we will want a common sense approach, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it..I think the viability of that herd is a significant concern at the momment..I am sure you would agree, mother nature is a much better manager than mankind, its been along time since we have had to face real survival issues..we have become tinkerers with mother nature..Horses have a low birth rate compared to other wildlife and the wild horses are wildlife and we donot apply the same terms and conditions.

    • Really, when you compare the costs of gathers and associated holding to PZP, you’ll find that there are significant differences. PZP is relatively inexpensive. The viability of any herd is something that should always be given consideration. However, the definition of viability that is most used is not necessarily the definition that is agreed upon by everyone within the community. I am personally a great believer in kinship as an indicator of a small population’s overall viability. There was recently a really great paper published on this idea. Also, this paper described how management for kinship can be achieved with PZP. I think that whenever it can actually happen, it may be good for nature to be the primary manager. However, I think that this carries risks just like any artificial management tools; and this needs to be acknowledged. Wild horses are in a tricky category when comparing them to other wildlife. There’s no easy answers to this. I agree with you; there are many things going wrong in the wild horse program. Management could be going a lot better than it is in many cases. It is reality, though, that there are a limited number of management alternatives on the table. If we don’t like one of them, then we are going to have to think about liking another. If we don’t like any of them, then we are going to have to decide which we dislike the least. I personally feel that there is not one cure-all solution for the wild horse program. I think that each herd should have a plan that is tailored to its needs.

  11. Genetic viability is something I know a bit about. I have been line breeding skipper w horses for the last 40 years and my mentor was Hank weiscamp-someone -most in the horse world would consider the leading expert on line breeding genetics..It has to be very closely monitored in domestic horses to keep recessives from destroying your program, that cannot be done in the wild..I applaud genetic testing, which can provide a dosage of blood information..HOWEVER genetic testing only is the tip of iceberg-as that does not reflect the dosage of recessives in a herd. The amount of recessive genes in a herd is seperate from DNA that is related and recessives are where the problems arise.and those are elements that are often not seen by the human eye as defects causeing the demise of a the time the humane eye detects those it is too late to rectify..things like low birth rates, due to unviable fetuses. hybred vigor, inability to thrive, weakened immune system, brittle bones, depressed size..Mother Nature takes care of this in allowing for numbers of animals so the likelyhood of inbreeding is depressed..When you take these herds to such low does not occur in that fashion, add to that PZP..not based on a scientific evaluation of that mare in relationship to the gene pool available..Is a disaster waiting to happen..Now these are not things most veternarys take into consideration, as they are not managers of breeding operations..but they do understand the need for certain population sizes to be maintained to account for that possibility to occur, and this and many other herds are now being faced with being wiped out by this policy.

    • I have been told that in a wild herd, a lot of these problems you describe aren’t so common. They were long bred out of the population for obvious reasons. It is of course likely that there are some risky genes floating around, but they just don’t seem to be emerging. Based on what I have been told by different sources on this topic, I just don’t have any reason to believe that the Pryor Mountain Wild Horses are currently in immediate danger of the negative effects of inbreeding depression. But anyway, we are dealing with a finite piece of land that can only hold a finite number of horses. I think you probably have a good idea of what I would consider a proper management plan for this herd. What would you propose as an alternative?

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