Saturday, October 1, 2011

Thirty returned After Idaho's Saylor Creek Fire

Wild horses return home to Elmore County
by Justin Corr


ELMORE COUNTY -- It's been about 13 months since a fire burned more than 300,000 acres south of Glenns Ferry and displaced a wild horse herd.
In 2010, the Long Butte Fire destroyed close to 100 percent of the habitat of the Saylor Creek herd.
"It was pretty devastating last year after the fire, and we sure have missed them," said Krystle Pehrson.
Krystle Pehrson is the Bureau of Land Management wild horse specialist for the Saylor Creek herd.
Managers were very worried about the herd surviving.

(more at above link)


Some background on the Saylor Creek horses and a real concern for their future.

The original Scoping Letter of October, 2010 lists alternative plans and clearly mentions its planned preference to release 50 - 75 wild horse and PZP the mares.

NEPA NO. DOI-BLM-ID-T010-2011-0001-EA

The actual Decision of Record varies greatly with the Scoping Letter and provides for the return of only 30 horses which was seen in the story below

However, as of this writing, I haven't been able to find the Environmental Assessment for comparison though the Decision of Record did state the impact of the return of the horse after the last fire in 2005. No mention anywhere that they planned to return the cattle to the range before the horses.

While the BLM Handbook on Wild Horse and Burro Management, H-4700-1, Chapter 3, page 12) does mention the four requirements for an HMA (forage, water, cover and space),

The WH&B Management Handbook also says on Page 22: Herd Size

"A minimum population size of 50 effective breeding animals (i.e., a total population size of about 150-200 animals) is currently recommended to maintain an acceptable level of genetic diversity within reproducing WH&B populations (Cothran, 2009). This number is required to keep the rate of loss of genetic variation at 1 percent per generation. Animal interchange between adjacent HMAs with smaller population sizes may reduce the need for maintaining populations of this size within each individual HMA. Research has not yet established a recommended minimum breeding herd size for burros."

It seems the Saylor Creek is actually above AML when the herd reaches an acceptable level of genetic diversity with 50 breeding animals.

And another thought on this roundup and return. Did none of the mares have foals while in captivity?

And finally, this not-so-feel good story might have a worse ending as it seems the future of the Saylor Creek Wild Horses is still not secure. This Magic Valley news article from January, 2011,states:

"Depending on the final version of the Jarbidge Resource Management Plan, the BLM may have the first of its own sanctuaries.The draft of that plan, which would guide management of 1.4 million acres of public land for up to two decades, lists a range of possibilities for herd management.

At one extreme, the BLM would eliminate the herd, managing the area for commercial development. At the other end is an option for managing a herd of 500 non-reproducing horses, where females receive annual birth control. “It would basically turn the Saylor Creek area into a sanctuary, where we add horses when others die,” Vander Voet said.

However, this won’t happen any faster than any other BLM action. With more than 2,000 comments to process, many months will pass before the final RMP is published."

and here it is again in the Jarbidge's office Decision of Record:

Conformance with the Land Use Plan
The 1987 Jarbidge RMP (p. II-4) identifies that one wild horse herd, Saylor Creek, will be managed under the approved plan. The Saylor Creek HMA would be managed to support 50 wild horses. The BLM will follow the direction provided in the 1987 RMP in crafting its range of alternatives in this EA.
The Jarbidge RMP is currently under revision (see A Draft RMP was released in September 2010. Various alternatives related to management of the Saylor Creek HMA are being considered as part of the RMP effort. The alternatives range from an unpopulated HMA to managing for a non-reproducing herd of up to 600 horses. If you wish to comment on the overall management of the Saylor Creek HMA in the Draft RMP, comments should be directed to the RMP revision effort. The comment period for the RMP revision effort is open until Janurary 31, 2011. Comments can be submitted electronically ( or in writing to the following address:

Jarbidge Field Office Attn: Aimee Betts Bureau of Land Management 2536 Kimberly Road Twin Falls, ID 83301
None of the alternatives being considered in this EA would preclude the options being considered under the Jarbidge RMP revision.

Link to BLM site on the status of the RMP:

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