August 2, 2011 – Gather Scoping Notice

The BLM Billings Field Office has released a scoping notice for a gather on the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range. Following is the press release on the scoping notice as well as a copy of the scoping notice letter.

Release Date: 08/01/11

Contacts: Kristen Lenhardt 406-896-5228    

BLM Seeks Input to Develop Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Gather Environmental Analysis

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Billings Field Office seeks public input on a proposed 2012 wild horse gather within the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range (PMWHR) during a 30-day scoping period, Aug. 1-30, 2011. The public scoping process is the initial stage in developing an Environmental Assessment (EA) that analyzes the effects of the proposed non-helicopter gather and removal of excess horses within the PMWHR.

Gathering methods could include bait trapping, water trapping, herding or a combination of these techniques. Since bait trapping can occur year-round, the gather is scheduled to take place at any point during the 2012 calendar year.

With a variety of competing uses on the land, the gather is designed to manage the appropriate number of wild horses so that rangelands and horses can be healthy and productive for years to come. The current wild horse population is approximately 150 horses with 17 foals, exceeding the established Appropriate Management Level (AML) of 90-120 horses, excluding the current year foals.

If anyone would like to provide input that would help the BLM in the development of a proposed action and alternatives (including type of capture techniques); further identify issues relating to potential environmental consequences, mitigation opportunities, and monitoring; or provide information, data, or analysis to be used in development of an EA, please do so in writing submitted to: Jim Sparks, Field Manager, BLM Billings Field Office, 5001 Southgate Drive, Billings, MT 59101, or by fax at (406) 896-5281.

Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment – including your personal identifying information – may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

The PMWHR is located in the Pryor Mountains south of Billings, along the Montana-Wyoming border and encompasses approximately 38,000 acres of BLM, U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service managed land.

The BLM manages more land – over 245 million acres – than any other Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The Bureau, with a budget of about $1 billion, also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM’s multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Bureau accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, cultural, and other resources on public lands.


Billings Field Office   5001 Southgate Drive      Billings, MT 59101

Last updated: 08-02-2011

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Published in: on August 2, 2011 at 7:36 pm  Comments (15)  

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  1. I guess the bit: “…With a variety of competing uses on the land…” bothers me. Other than the public access locations along M-37, what are the :other uses? Why are they pertinent to an area dedicated as refuge to the wild horses. The entire refuge site seems fairly small to me in any “western” expanse sense, but huge relative to 167 horses and foals.

    Maybe It’s just my ignorance, but I am curious.

  2. Thank you for posting this: can you please translate this paragraph:

    “Gathering methods could include bait trapping, water trapping, herding or a combination of these techniques. Since bait trapping can occur year-round, the gather is scheduled to take place at any point during the 2012 calendar year.”

    Where have they said they are leaning TOWARDS bait-trapping? I don’t see that in the above paragraph. It sounds like they will use any method they can, depending on what, the weather; contractor availability?

    Do you care to discuss the methodology of the contractor contracts? I understand the contractors are paid to bring the horses into the confinements whether or not they are injured on the way. They do not have to deliver horses to the BLM in their original condition found on the range — example — foals with their hooves run off, and the like. Why aren’t they penalyzed for delivering injured horses, injured directly as a result of the contractors’ actions?


  3. First of all, I am very glad to see the term “non-helicopter” in reference to this gather, but hope there will not be any other motorized vehicle usage, either.

    “The PMWHR is located in the Pryor Mountains south of Billings, along the Montana-Wyoming border and encompasses approximately 38,000 acres of BLM, U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service managed land.” I am a bit confused in reading this, since I thought Forest Service Land was NOT included in the PMWHR, thus the horses present on that area are called “trespassers”. Maybe it’s just me, but I find this confusing, and assume that it is a misstatement by the author of this document. I hope you can clear this up for me.

  4. Matt,can you take photo of Damsel when you next see Cloud’s band.From The Cloud Foundation claim that she is not pregnant,”she just wintered very well”.I’m sure she was pregnant in early July,and I don’t know how she looks know.

  5. I am glad to see other methods of trapping and gathering being discussed and used. Thanks to folks willing to try something different! I hope it is successful and goes without incident so it can be tried in other HMAs

    • Absolutely. What the hurry that they need expensive helicopters. The mountains don’t move. We certainly know enough about equids, both wild and domestic that our human intelligence can prevail and use perhaps more time-consuming but more humane gather methods. The money you spend on helicopter roundups might be better put to use by providing floodlights and armed guards in towers at night at the trap sites once the horses are trapped. Don’t be greedy. Take the ones you get, and set other traps. So people get paid more for their time. Fine. I would rather have BLM and even myself running all over the mountain and getting paid for it building relatively inexpensive horse traps which were humanely protected (more money into a real person’s pocket vs. millions of dollars into ONE INCOMPETENT contractor’s pocket, God forbid.

      And while I am on the subject, trapping,reducing ranges and forage and forcing them to other places to graze, doesn’t really qualify as anything but land management — maybe the fobs and grasses up on the mtn contain unknown enzymes, vitamins, or other features we don’t yet understand and these horses know they need it — maybe the nursing dams need it or the foals. Maybe it has some medicinal qualities by being grown in certain areas where the soils may have a slight variation in mineral content, or some alchemy of sun, altitude and microclimate as-yet unstudied.

      Have you ever watched your dog sniffing thru the grass, only to reject some green offerings and munch ravenously on others?
      This is part of ecology, (not the dog, but the horses’ choosings) and go back and read your Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac.

      He states (paraphrased) that it doesn’t matter WHERE all the organisms (plants, biota, animal, etc.) ORIGINALLY came from, what matters is that THEY ALL DEPEND ON EACH OTHER — they are a complete balanced ecology where they live as one system, an ‘ecosystem.’

  6. “Third, there could be gathers that may be more frequent but are smaller and wouldn’t require the use of a helicopter. This scoping notice seems to be exploring the third option.” I’m sure I recall Matt pointing out the fact that “smaller, more frequent” gathers are better in the long run for the horses, numerous times in the past as well as now. I agree. It would be nice if there could be as many horses on the Range as the horses could produce—but that’s NOT REALITY. The horses are caught in the middle of a huge struggle for control of the land for man’s purposes, and I know there are many good people working to secure the best arrangement possible for them in today’s world. And, we can all help by expressing level headed opinions based on facts, including the fact that we love these horses and what they represent to each of us.

    Hopefully, there will be no long drawn out legal battles to prevent this much more humane type of measure from taking place in a timely manner so that a more rigorous and damaging type measure doesn’t have to happen to get caught up. We need to keep our wits about us and not panic about the loss of horses thus far. True, the deaths of the 3 Dryhead stallions is an unexpected loss, but there is always a number of very old and very young who don’t make it thru winter, and I’m sure ALL the lost horses will be included in the mathematical conclusion of what needs to be done.

    I agree with what Janet has said about the kinder, gentler type of gather, but I’m not convinced that the horses MUST have the entire previous range on the mountaintop to be healthy. I’m familiar enough with farming (and pasturing animals) to know that animals do alter the state of their pasture area just by doing what comes naturally. And, altho the wildflowers on the top of the mountain are beautiful, they do appear to have become much more prevalent than is good for the horses (wildlife), since the horses do not eat them. My main question is: If the mountaintop were the only source of good nutrition for the horses, why are most of the horses who frequent only the Dryhead and areas in between so healthy? And why do so many of the “roamers” make their way to the Dryhead to lick the minerals from the soil in certain places? I tend to believe that the reason the horses have overused the mountaintop and underused the mid slope areas is because of the availability of water, not because the forage is unsuitable. I would imagine there have also been studies done that would substantiate that conclusion.

    Anyway, it is most certainly interesting and educational to read all the views and info shared on this blog. I really do appreciate it.

    • Linda you make some good points!! Most the the horses looking amazing coming out of a winter that was one of the worst on record without assistance for the horses.

      For the horses to have recovered and put on weight so fast this year how can they say that they are depleting the range. Maybe we don’t want their numbers to drastically increase to change this but after this winter the loss of so many horses, young & old shows that Mother Nature is assisting in population control as well.

      Can we not wait a few years and get this PZP on a regualar track base to do the control it is suppose to without continually doing round ups and removing the horses. What is the point of PZP if we still have to remove them and taking out some of the diversity of the lines out there.

      I don’t completly disagree with removing some horses, maybe the ones that are not thriving and it saves there life, or the ones that possibly are inbred because they where and “OOPS”. I hate seeing so many favorites go, it makes it so we can not appreciate the fact that the ones we love are no longer wild and free.

      I wish more people would read these blogs to see the real story behind some of these horses that Matt protrays so very well. It think more people wouldn’t just consider them a bunch of horses and not care either way.

  7. Length of days up high are a little longer and the air is cooler perhaps. Have you ever noticed the sun goes down earlier as viewed from the valleys than as viewed from the mountaintops? This means better visibility to the equids of predators, better winds (bug prevention), and more sunlight hours for the flora and fauna. This would seem to me to mean more nutrition. Don’t communities of fobs and grasses have a natural lifespan? Clearing the mid-growth has been shown to decrease the ability of the birds to forage for insects near adequate cover. Increase of insect life may increase damage to the plant communities. It’s all a circle.

    Judging the health of a horse I guess involves their physical appearance and reproductive rates.

    But how do you judge the wisdom of the wild equid — the ability of them to carry on the hard-won ancestral genius of gleaning life itself from the environment — when you keep them from their natural drifting behavior.

    Survival as a species should encompass this wisdom, not just a physical number of horses.

    As has been shown the older horses accumulate wisdom and teach this survival wisdom to their young. Skim off the older horses, and you have no more of a wild species than you have a block of cheddar cheese.

    Also, we forget our senses are limited. We cannot hear what dogs can hear; we cannot see what birds and insects can see — we are limited in our physical abilties.

    We judge animal health on their physical status, based on our own appraisal of what they should look like.

    These are most likely standards based on livestock health; domestic standards taught in all the ag, conservation and extension schools.

    We have yet to gain the science taught by the horse of its true needs.

    Predators are eradicated and ooops there is an expensive need for controversial roundups, birth control and removals. Ooops!

    • PS Gina I had not read your remark when I wrote this and noticed we are both emplying the ‘oops’ literary tool today! lol

  8. How many horses are targeted for removal?

  9. To everyone concerned about what is being proposed, there are so many good posts and comments on the last 3 posting dates, and others. Read and reread them. There are answers to MOST of the questions being asked if one is willing to open their mind to the wisdom.

    I am a very interested party, but I’m by no means an expert on any of this, and I’m not well-versed in using the “big words”. I have to trust my instincts in evaluating what I see, read and hear, and they tell me that the people involved in the PMWM Center and SOME of the BLM staff are very educated and knowledgable and have the best interests of the horses at heart. And, millions of our tax dollars have been spent on the study of both the land and all wildlife in about every area of our country, not just domestic agriculture and animal husbandry. It’s one of the reasons we know that this herd of wild horses is so unique in it’s genetic link to the horses brought back to this continent by the Conquistadores, remember?

    I’m going to trust these people to consider all these things that so many of us are expressing concern about, along with applying all the vast firsthand knowledge they possess from living and working there, in making their recommendations
    . Between the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center and it’s supporters, The Cloud Foundation and so many other efforts to educate the public, I believe there is a greatly expanding awareness of the groundswell of support that exists in the world for wild horses and burros. I believe these people will represent us as the “boots on the ground” representatives for the good of the horses. But, we will have to make our wishes known, give them our good reasons for what we believe, and probably settle for a little less than what we would consider ideal by the time it passes thru all the government red tape and “inexperienced experts” signing the bottom line. (Did you hear about the government official in the present administration in a position to be making decisions about range issues who thought cattle guards out west were human employees?!) If only we COULD get them to read a few of the best blogs on the lives of the wild horses, and just take one trip to actually encounter a family or two. Probably NOT going to happen.

    One issue I really want to look into further and would appreciate input (web links, etc.) on is that of wild horses being granted the status of being a “native species”, for receiving the considerations that other species are in relation to the endangered list, etc. Seems to me like maybe their willingness to befriend and serve man has put them on an unfortunate course in that respect, but at least we don’t just hunt them as prey or for sport anymore.

    Anyway, from one wild horse lover to many others—thanks for caring so much.

    And remember—the mustangs are survivors. They WILL adapt and prevail, and go on “drinking the wind” on the PMWHR.

  10. One of the gathering methods proposed is herding. Does this mean wranglers on horseback would “herd” the horses down to Britton Springs? In the past haven’t there been safety issues for the horses when this method of gathering is used? Which of these gathering methods will the PMWMC be recommending to the BLM?

  11. I wrote my letter and will be sending the mustang center a copy.

  12. A discussion about managing at a healthy genetic level:

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