Sand Wash Basin Herd Growth

Sand Wash Basin Growth Chart

Year    # Wild Horses  

                                                                                                                1971             65    Passage of the 1971 

Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burro 


1986            AML 65

1989            Gather

1995            217     Gather AML 217

1998            455      Gather

2001             AML  163-363 Gather

2005             Gather

2006            373

2007            386

2008            411

                                                                                    2008            240 Removed   HSUS started treating with PZP

                                                                    2009            217 Nancy Roberts started Documenting the Herd

2010            256

2011            296

                                                                              2012            341    Dec 2012 SWAT took over the PZP program

2013            408

2014            481

2015            548

2016            607

               2016              43 Removed    

2017             647    

Notes from the August 2016 Sand Wash Basin Wild Horse Herd Management Area Bait/Water Trapping Gather/Population Control Environmental Assessment

1971  Congress recognized the Wild horse as living symbols of the pioneer spirit of the West.

The Humane Society of the United States completed a analysis of the potenila population control showing that "more aggressive changes in earlier years will yield more dramatic decresase in later years, obviating the need for removing any horses from the range in the future while still achieving AML" (Appropriate Management Level). They also stated that "by replacing the current gather-  and -remove programs, the BLM would save approximately 204 million dollars over 12 years while achieving and maintaining AML on wild horse Herd Management Areas, (HMA).

The HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) strongly supports the use of fertility control as an alternative to gathers.

What is an Envirnmental Assessment

"This EA is a site-specific analysis of potential impacts that could result with the implementation of the proposed action or alternatives to the proposed action. This EA assists the BLM in project planning, ensuring compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and in making a determination as to whether any “significant” impacts could result from the analyzed actions. “Significance” is defined by NEPA and is found in regulation 40 CFR 1508.27. An EA provides evidence for determining whether to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or a statement of “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI). If the decision maker determines that this project has “significant” impacts following the analysis in the EA, then an EIS would be prepared for the project. If not, a Decision Record (DR) may be signed for the EA approving the selected alternative, whether the proposed action or another alternative. A DR, including a FONSI statement, documents the reasons why implementation of the selected alternative would not result in “significant” environmental impacts (effects) beyond those already addressed in the Little Snake Resource Management Plan (October 2011) as amended by the Northwest Colorado Greater Sage-Grouse Approved Resource Management Plan Amendment (September 2015). "


Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP) History in Sand Wash Basin

"Prior to 2008, the management of the Sand Wash Basin HMA has been to gather and remove horses. A percentage of released mares from the last gather in 2008 were treated with a pelleted form of PZP followed by a booster dose of the vaccine administered remotely in the field. Since 2008, the BLM has partnered with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Sand Wash Basin Advocate Team (SWAT) to continue the field application of PZP. However, due to the size of the HMA, the dispersed nature of the horses, and lack of trained volunteers, only 40 to 50 mares per year have been treated. There has been a reduced foaling rate following the treatments; however to be as effective as possible, at least 80% of the mares in the HMA must be treated on a yearly basis. To date, approximately 25% of the population of the mares in 


the HMA is treated on a yearly basis and the foaling rates have decreased from a high seen in 2009 of 34% to 19% in 2015. 


Gather and removal management has resulted in an over population of horses in ORPs as there is not enough adoption demand to place all of the gathered horses into private care nationwide. Fertility control treatment alone has resulted in some population suppression, but not enough. Combining a bait/water trapping gather, PZP application to at least 80% of the mares, together with a small removal of 50 horses should help the BLM achieve population management goals over the long term"

Purpose and Need for the 2016 Bait and Trap

"The purpose of the Proposed Action is to achieve and maintain appropriate management level (AML) through implementation of a population growth suppression program to reduce population growth rates and removal of excess wild horses from the HMA. The Sand Wash Basin wild horse herd population appropriate management level of 163 to 362 adult horses as established by the Little Snake Field Office RMP. The current estimated population of the HMA is 607 horses including foals of the year. It is estimated that there are 550 adult horses and 57 foals of the year; for an estimated excess number of 245 over the upper limit of AML and 444 over the lower limit of the AML. The proposed action, while not immediately reducing the herd to within the range of AML, would help reduce the population over time and thereby reduce the need for a large, costly, helicopter gather and removal operations. The BLM needs to maintain wild horse herd numbers to levels consistent with the AML while managing herd genetic variability and the health of individual wild horses and to make progress towards achieving standards of rangeland health. In addition, keeping the number of horses close to the AML aids in making an in the field darting program more effective. The need for the Proposed Action is to maintain the population in a thriving natural ecological balance by making progress towards attaining AML and to analyze the impacts to the wild horses from the utilization of a fertility control program. " 


Allowable Uses and Actions

"Livestock grazing will be managed by using standards and guidelines processes, while working closely with permittees/lessees to develop sustainable ranching operations. Appropriate actions for improving allotments that do not meet the Colorado standards and guidelines could include, but will not be limited to, adjustment of permitted AUMs, modified turnout dates, livestock water developments, range improvements, modified grazing periods and grazing systems, resting areas during the growing season, closing areas, riparian pastures, enclosures, implementation of forage utilization levels, and livestock conversions. Livestock grazing will be allowed to the extent of existing federal preferences, shown in Appendix H (of the Little Snake River RMP), until monitoring studies and land health evaluations determine otherwise on an allotment specific basis. Appropriate action will be taken where existing livestock grazing management is determined to be a significant causal factor for not meeting land health standards. 


Rangelands will be monitored, focusing on allotments where land health standards have not been met and/or riparian assessments are “functioning at risk”, “non-functional”, or are in a “downward trend.” Land Health Assessments and determinations of whether standards are being met will be one factor that may be considered in setting criteria for where vegetation treatments are needed and if treatments should be implemented (Vegetation, Section 2.4). Vegetation treatments and other range improvements will be considered to improve rangeland diversity, condition, and sustainability by actions that may include, but are not limited to, the control of pinyon-juniper encroachment and decadent sagebrush. BLM will work closely with CPW to reduce livestock/big game conflicts so as to improve vegetative and forage conditions. Criteria in Appendix F (of the Little Snake River RMP) will be used to establish RCAs. Management plans will be developed for all allotments to be used as an RCA. Criteria for permittee/lessee use include:   Priority will be given to those permittees/lessees whose customary allotments are under an approved rangeland restoration/recovery project.  Emergency conditions, such as wildfire.   NOT to be used for drought or for overuse of customary allotment. Exploration (including seismic exploration, drilling, or other development or production activity) will generally not be allowed on domestic sheep lambing grounds during lambing activity. Lambing activities usually fall between April 10 and June 30 and last for approximately six weeks. Dates for the six week closure will be determined for each operation as local conditions dictate."

Great Sage-Grouse

 "Sage-grouse are considered a sagebrush ecosystem obligate species. Sagebrush provides nesting, brooding and winter cover, as well as forage throughout the year.  Each year, male sage-grouse congregate in late winter through spring on leks to display their breeding plumage and to attract hens for mating. Typically, leks are positioned within proximity of nesting and brood-rearing habitat; therefore, they are often considered an excellent reference point for monitoring and habitat protection measures.  Sagebrush and grass cover are important components of sage-grouse habitat for both nest and young concealment.  Availability of forbs and insects are crucial for the brood-rearing season.   Greater sage-grouse utilize sagebrush ecosystems within the Sandwash year round.  There are eight active leks located within the HMA.  In 2016, these eight leks had a combined high male count of 349 birds (CPW 2016).  The largest lek in Sandwash is the Twin Buttes lek, which had over 100 males this year.  A Priority Habitat Management Area (PHMA) spans the central to north and east areas of the HMA and consists of approximately 93,000 acres.  PHMA is defined as areas that have been identified as having the highest conservation value to maintaining sustainable greater sage-grouse populations.  The remaining southern and western edges of the HMA are mapped as General Habitat Management Areas (GHMA).   

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"Using the entire 157,730 acres within the HMA administrative boundary, approximately 59% (~93,475 acres) is greater sage-grouse preliminary priority habitat (PPH) as identified by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).  The remainder of the acreage is identified as preliminary general habitat (PGH). "

"Once again, the alarming trend is that 31% of greater sage-grouse PPH within the HMA has been utilized by wild horses  above the acceptable levels that are applied to livestock grazing (41 – 60% and 61 – 80%), and that the lowest range of utilization (6 – 20%) constitutes the smallest amount of acreage monitored.  In addition to impacts to greater sage-grouse, this level of utilization going into winter forces big game species that uses these areas as winter habitat to search for alternative sustainable winter habitat."