Today U.S. District Court Judge, Larry R. Hicks, Reno, Nev. issued a decision ruling in favor of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and rescinding a temporary restraining order imposed on Wednesday, July 14. This ruling allows BLM to move forward with the Tuscarora wild horse gather, which has become an emergency rescue gather operation following the determination that wild horses herds on the range are currently suffering from water starvation/dehydration due to a lack of water.
Judge Hicks held a hearing Thursday afternoon to hear final arguments regarding a motion filed to stop the Tuscarora gather. In addition to ruling that the gather could go forward, Judge Hicks ruled that BLM’s current temporary closure of the public lands during the gather is too broad, but held that BLM had a responsibility to protect the health and safety of the public, its employees and agents, and the horses during the gather, and that BLM could impose a reasonable closure.
“The BLM is pleased that the decision of the court that will allow us to move forward with the Tuscarora emergency rescue gather, which is necessary to prevent the mortality of the wild horses that are currently suffering from water starvation and dehydration.” said Ron Wenker, BLM Nevada State Director.
After the ruling, the BLM gather contractor initiated operations and brought in 54 wild horses which are suffering from water starvation/dehydration.
The Government also submitted an interim report to Judge Hicks during the hearing that was prepared by a review team composed of BLM and independent experts brought together at the request of BLM Director Bob Abbey. The Report provided the following recommendations to the Director:
- Re-initiate emergency rescue gather operations as soon as possible to save as many animals as possible;
- Gather all the wild horses in the Star Ridge and Dry Creek pasture that are not showing obvious signs of water starvation, bring them to the existing pens, treat and care for them in the pens until stable and ship them to other holding facilities.
- For those horses on the range that are showing obvious signs of distress from water dehydration and in too weakened a condition to gather, they would not be trailed into the gather pens and would be left on the range, likely to experience a high degree of natural mortality.
- For horses that are already down and unable to be trailed and are not responding to the helicopter, the BLM would attempt to humanely euthanize those animals.
Team members include Mike Mottice, BLM Oregon/Washington Associate State Director (Team Leader); Tom Pogacnik, BLM California Deputy State Director, Natural Resources; Dr. Boyd Spratling DVM & BLM’s National Wild Horse Advisory Board; Eric Reid,Wild Horse/Burro Specialist, Fillmore, Utah; Dr. Klell Ekins, Equine DVM; and Robin Lohnes, American Horse Protection Association & BLM National Wild Horse Advisory Board.
BLM field staff and specialists reported on Friday that the condition of the wild horses within the Owyhee Herd Management Area is critical and continues to decline rapidly. The BLM Nevada will implement the Team’s recommendations, which may require the BLM to start humanely euthanizing suffering consistent with Bureau policy.
The Tuscarora gather area encompasses the Owyhee, Rock Creek, and Little Humboldt Herd Management Areas (HMAs) located in northern Elko County, Nev. The BLM initiated gather operations within the Owyhee HMA on Saturday, July 10, and gathered 228 excess wild horses, but suspended operations on Sunday after it discovered that the wild horses had been suffering from a lack of water prior to being gathered.
The BLM gather contractor conducted an aerial flyover of the Owyhee HMA on the morning of Tuesday, July 13, and located two large groups of wild horses: the Dry Creek group that consists of about 125 wild horses; and the Star Ridge group that consists of approximately 400 animals.
The Star Ridge group is located around a dry reservoir and has made no attempt to move to the nearest water source located approximately 10 miles away at the South Fork Owyhee River. The BLM installed six water troughs with a combined capacity of 3,000 gallons near and around a reservoir located within one-fourth to one-half mile of horses within the Star Ridge pasture, and used a water tanker to fill the troughs and the reservoir. The BLM has hauled 12,000 gallons of water to the North Owyhee horses, yet only a small group have watered (probably less than 15) based on tracks in the mud. However, the BLM will continue to haul water.
From Saturday evening through Wednesday 12 horses died from complications unrelated to the gather, as a result of pre-existing water starvation/dehydration or subsequent water intoxication. Based on necropsies of the dead horses by the on-site veterinarian, the BLM has determined the mortalities were a direct result of a lack of water in the immediate areas occupied by the horses before they were gathered. One horse was euthanized shortly after being gathered due to a fractured leg that occurred in the temporary holding corrals.
As more information becomes available it will be posted at the website: http://www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/fo/elko_field_office.html. For further comments and questions, the public may call 1-866-468-7826.
The BLM manages more land – more than 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.