The ~Texas~ Mustang Project's Blog

Working for better management options and cohabitation through compromise and communication for the American Wild Mustang

Tuscarora Rumor Control

Posted by Texas Mustang Project on July 19, 2010

I’ve been checking out some rumors that have been circulating.  My concerns are that if we are to wage an effective campaign for the horses, we darn sure need to know what we’re talking about.  So I’ve “double sourced” the following rumor control issues before posting this message.

Rumor #1:  Horses are dying while cattle are still out on the public lands.

Answer:  No cattle are on the public lands in the Star Ridge and High Creek pastures (the public lands associated with this gather.)  I wanted to confirm that the grazing season is over, which is correct, but I also found out that both pastures were on “rest” this season so they weren’t grazed at all by cattle over the past winter and spring.

It was suggested to me that the confusion over cattle could be caused by the fact that the road to Owyhee passes through private ranches, most notably the IL Ranch.  There are fenced off areas on these private ranches that hold cattle.

Rumor #2: Ranchers fenced off horses from water.

I hadn’t thought of the answer to this one but it soon became pretty obvious.  Since no cattle were turned out in the pastures, the stockmen didn’t operate the wells.   So it wasn’t a fence out issue but rather a wells not being started up issue.  My personal thought is that someone should have put two and two together on that one and made arrangements to acquire supplementary water.

Using Star Ridge as an example, most water is accumulated in water catchments and is supplemented by a private well when cattle are out.  The catchments have dried up since there has been almost no rainfall and of course with no cattle being run, nobody was providing supplementary water.  The result was that the pasture went dry.

Other notes.

BLM reports having delivered 30,000 gallons of water so far.  Some of the horses are drinking it.  Some are not.  I was told by a couple of folks that the access to the river is steep and tricky and the weaker horses are believed to not be able to make it down to the river, which explains why some of them aren’t getting water.

I’m attaching a photo of one of the springs on private land.  You can see that the spring is not fenced, but the problem is that the spring is running so poorly this year that it’s barely a tiny puddle and it takes the horses an inordinately long time to get a drink.

I think the most significant lesson here is that these resources issues have to be monitored, especially when seasonal land uses (that bring in man-supplied water) are not occurring and when there is a marked decrease in normal rainfall.  My experience has been that horses and other wildlife will use man supplied water sources when not in an already severely weakened state and when their mental faculties are operating correctly.  Sometimes they can reach a point of weakness and being so “spacey” that they won’t approach anything that is unfamiliar.



25 Responses to “Tuscarora Rumor Control”

  1. Tracie, There are seeps here in Colorado that have less surface water than this spring and it is providing water for a large proportion of the horses on an HMA (Spring Creek-Disappontment Valley). And they have been drier than Owyhee. mar

  2. reveil said

    Even if they are millions of gallons of water delivered, wouldn’t the horses at least need a week or two before they would be in any decent shape at all?

  3. Something is “rotten in Denmark” concerning water “drying up”. I just read this on HorseTalk a New Zealand website and Dr. Kane is quoted that the horses were “blocked” from the river==here is his exact words.

    However, a veterinary report, dated July 11, by Dr Albert Kane, who performed necropsies on three of the horses that died in the initial muster, noted: “The history of this area is that water holes being used recently are drying up and horses were blocked from accessing a singular access point to a river that has historically been a watering point during dry conditions.”
    So they did use the river, had historical access to the river and were BLOCKED from that source by ???????

    Wild horses in the news

    • Roxy said

      I think that was the tourists camping by the river – but I don’t recall where that was reported, or by whom, or on what date. The report was that upon detection the campers where asked to leave.

      Anyone recall this? I am compiling a time table.

      And, why would anyone be camping in this area this time of year?

    • Barb, Is that the official date for what Dr. Kane examined horses on the 11th? ok One day before the photos from the Interim Report were taken.

      Roxy, This is a scenic canyon and on the NE side is Idaho where the campers came from. They may have been rafters. Not sure. But people go fishing and camping along there. mar

      • Yep-July 11 report by Dr.Kane

      • sandra longley said

        In my research of this area i discovered a website of professional rafters-typically the Owyhee is only for professional rafters, there are -maybe-6 runs a year on the owyhee..Very interesting fact….They are using Ruby Pipeline maps to get overland to this area to launch..So is this yet another HMA being affected by the gas pipeline???

  4. Roxy said

    The point is – the lack of water that they horses have relied on for several years, if not decades, were made dry my HUMAN activities, or in this case lack of normal human activities – that this was all preventable.

    Question – BLM reports that 60% of the horses in this gather are on private land as of June 30 to July 7, 2010 I guess. According to the testimony on the BLM web site this is daily – they break down the fences and get plenty of water so these horese should be well watered on July 10. Are any of the horses still on private land? Or how many of those 60% already been driven off of private land now added to the other 40% that are now without water other than what BLM has brought in and the river? If they are already driven off of the private land, when did that drive occur?

    What was the date the campers on the river were discovered and date they were asked to leave – does anyone recall? Too bad we don’t know who they are so we could talk to them.

  5. Jan said

    did blm know cattle werent there so ranchers would not pump wells – seems blm shd be doing survey work earlier in year before it got this bad – we had a lot of rain in calif this year but guess nevada did not get it – blm shd be out survey conditions long before horses were pur in such danger of no water – they dont seem to manage their responsibilities very well – that of cking on area where they know horses are

    • sandra longley said

      I was in the Northwest section of this HMA last weekend..there were hillsides of wildflowers..the likes of which you rarely see in the desert unless you have had an exceptionally wet spring and mild winter..the grass was green and tall, water was running every where including down the road from springs..guess the water didn’t make it a few miles over..guess the horses couldn’t get to the little humbolt river..WHY is that again???? Repeating what someone told you is the best way I know to get egg on your face..You want to believe your source..I believe what my eyes told me..but i sure would have liked to get some water samples tested..but I am sure that BLM did that- because they spend alot of time pondering these things..

  6. Roxy said

    Tracie, PS thanks for the update and clarifications – most appreciated. I should have started with this – sorry, I am in my own aspergerish “drive” mode and when I get like a turtle, nose down ploding away without regard for surroundings, I forget common courtesy!

  7. Linda said

    I read somewhere that the BLM and ranchers have been known to split fencing costs and that the BLM has erected miles of fencing totally on our dime. Is this correct?

    And is the “developed” water on allotments 100% paid for by the lessee or does the BLM pay a percentage as “range improvements”? Also, who owns the water rights on the leases?

    Just askin’.

  8. Here’s another question–just checking the Google Earth and it appears that the area around the river looks like it could have irrigation circles and the area looks quite green. I see light white lines that seem to indicate boundaries. I understand that a lot of the problem is checkerboarding–placing private lands between public lands so it is easy to have wild horses kept from water and/or breaking fences to get water. Is this true in this case–just asking.

  9. Heather said

    one thing about google earth though, they don’t often use updated images. Be sure and check the date of the images in the corner.

    • I think the dating is 2007 but the light images that might indicate fencing are there. The USDA is the agency on the Nevada map while the USGeological Survey is on my area. Also my farm shows up with a lot more detail at a lower elevation than the Nevada map.

      • During the Calico gather and subsequent transportations / holdings in Fallon, we tried the Google Earth route to try toget some images of the layouts, etc. It was very frustrating because of the image quality variations from one area to the next andthedates beingolder in one section but almost “brand new” in the section right next to it.It’s a great tool – don’tget me wrong – but I don’t know that it is practical for the application we are needing it for currently.However, if anything it can give us an overview of the areas and all if we can find images that are 2009 and later as long as we remember not to take themas being absolute. T.

  10. Donna Buscemi said

    Here is a copy of the BLM report dated 6/16/10 and a video. Pay special attention to paragraph 3. They knew water was a problem- so should have intervened sooner.

    The Tuscarora Gather. . .Extreme Terrain Requires Extreme Diligence
    Click here to view the video.

    The Tuscarora Gather includes three wild horse herd management areas, or HMAs, that make up almost half a million acres of land in Nevada. Each area has its own story of extreme conditions and unique circumstances. The Bureau of Land Management’s job is to manage healthy horses on healthy rangelands, according to the Wild Horses and Burros Act of 1971. BLM employees—rangeland managers, biologists, horse and burro specialists and others—work together to understand the dynamics of the range and work to manage a balance: from different species of animals that share the land, to water availability, to how many animals the land can sustain. BLM also monitors wild horse behavior – where they roam, where they prefer to stay, and how far they have travel between water and food. It’s mid-May, 2010. . . Let’s take a look on the ground at the Tuscarora Gather Area. . .

    In the Owyhee HMA, the key issues are overpopulation and limited resources. The BLM considers all the different uses on the land, and through a multiple-use decision, BLM determines how many horses an area can sustain. This amount is expressed as a range, from low to high, and it is called the appropriate management level, or AML. The appropriate management level for the Owyhee is 139 to 231 horses. Currently, the Owyhee HMA has more than 8oo horses on it, or more than three times the high end of the appropriate management level. There is little water available to sustain more than 800 horses. Of the twenty-three ponds on the Owyhee HMA, more than half have very little water left in them and the rest have dried up as of mid-May.

    Dave Overcast, BLM Tuscarora Field Office Manager:
    We’re out here today on the Owyhee Herd Management Area. We’ve got about 500 wild horses out in this area. Our concern today and what I’d like to show you is behind me – one of these little storage ponds for water that we have. There’s just a couple in this area. You can see this one will be out here in about the next four weeks – first of June. And there’ll be no water left. Our horses will need to travel clear over 10 miles to the river in order to get water and then come back in this area. So, in caring for horses, this is one of our concerns.

    Looking at the miles of sagebrush and other plants, it may appear that there is enough for horses to eat. Understanding what kind of plants a horse can eat, how much they eat and how long the plants they eat are available is key. On the Owyhee, Rock Creek and Little Humboldt HMAs, only a few different types of plants exist and most of these provide the horses nutrition for a only a brief window of time. Sagebrush, though edible, provides little nourishment to horses.

    Dave Overcast, BLM Tuscarora Field Manager:
    I have a question for you. How many acres do you think it would take to feed a horse for a month out here? Take a look on the ground. You know, our estimate is about 50 acres. So you can imagine at 50 acres per horse, to feed them for a month, it’s going to take thousands of acres to do that.

    Rock Creek Herd Management Area
    In the Rock Creek HMA, the key issues are overpopulation and a large number of wild horses that moved outside the HMA. The appropriate management level for the Rock Creek HMA is 150-250 wild horses. Currently there are about 600 horses on, and outside of, the HMA.

    Wild horses don’t recognize boundaries. They will travel far and wide to find water and food, and even break through fences on private property to get what they need. 60 percent of the Rock Creek horses reside outside the HMA.

    Gregg Simonds, Ranch Manager, Squaw Valley Ranch:
    This pasture here has a barber wire fence around it. It’s part of the upper Willow Creek enhancement area. . .which is. . . We’re trying to manage the specials for the Lahontan cutthroat trout and our cattle. And basically, it’s largely private land in here, and the horses have left the HMA and they are constantly breaking down the fence and coming into this area. And it makes it really hard for us to get the right kind of prescription grazing to provide the rest in this area when the fences are broken down almost on a daily basis.

    Excessive wild horses in areas not designated for them can affect other species. This is the case surrounding the Rock Creek HMA. Horses that migrate off the HMA head for springs and drainages that flow into streams where the Lahontan cutthroat trout live. These trout are a federally listed threatened species, and the horses’ potential indirect impact is a concern. BLM has worked in partnership with conservationists and the Squaw Valley rancher to restore the creek outside the Rock Creek HMA which is now threatened by wild horse use upstream.

    Carol Evans, Fishery Biologist, BLM Tuscarora Field Office:
    I’m standing on the banks of Willow Creek. Willow Creek is one of several streams that supports Lahontan cutthroat trout. They’re a federally listed threatened species. We have been managing the grazing here very effectively for about the last eight years. When we started here, these stream banks didn’t have the vegetation that you see now. They were very bare. They were eroding during spring flows. We didn’t have the willows here. It was really poor habitat for fish. There has been an increase in horses using this area outside the HMA. There’s some estimates of approx. 100 horses in this area. When we have horses outside the HMA and in the surrounding areas, they will damage the fences. We have difficulty controlling the cattle. And they will start to take up residence in the area and start to impact the stream.

    In the Little Humboldt HMA, the key issue is managing the current population to avoid horses moving off the HMA. The appropriate management level for the Little Humboldt HMA is 48-80. To keep numbers within the AML, BLM will remove some younger animals and conduct fertility control on mares that will be releases back to the HMA. This effort will help protect nearby Lahontan cutthroat trout. Horses going outside the HMA in search of food and water could impact trout habitat.

    The Goal of the Tuscarora Gather
    The goal of the gather is to control wild horse overpopulation by removing excess wild horses residing inside and outside the HMA boundaries; gathering more horses than necessary to so that some mares can be treated with fertility control and released back to the HMAs; adjusting the sex ratio of the herd to have fewer females than males; and providing better habitat and quality of life for the wild horses that remain in the HMAs.

    BLM manages the public rangelands through collaboration with outside partners. Here are some of the things our partners have to say about our efforts to control the overpopulation of wild horses.

    Well, as far as gathering horses on public lands, our position is that the numbers do need to be controlled because of their impact on both habitat and water resources that directly affect wildlife in the state of Nevada.

    We’re all supportive of the gathers. We believe in multiple use, combining cattle ranching, sheep ranching, mining, recreation, wild horses, wildlife, all on public lands and having that be in balance. And I’ve been a horse person from birth almost. We raised and trained Appaloosas and showed them nationally, and I’ve also seen the damage that many of these wild horses have done out on the range and seen side by side, two pastures, where they were and where they were not. It’s extremely devastating to the land when they’re in high numbers because they stay in one place for the most part. They’re very territorial. So, I don’t think anybody doesn’t want the horses here we just want them managed in the numbers that were established under the wild horse and burro act.

    Gregg Simonds, Ranch Manager, Squaw Valley Ranch:
    Because at the end of the day, what we have here is this landscape. And we’re trying to take care of this landscape. Trying to keep it so that’ it’s thriving, and most important, that whatever precipitation we do get goes into the ground and allows a whole cascade of life to happen.

    Carol Evans, Fishery Biologist, BLM Tuscarora Field Office:
    Where I think we can make the most gains as the American public, as a society, is working together. Just trying to get out on the ground and seeing what the resource issues are, and what the problems are, and working together for solutions. It’s just amazing what we can do when we work together, and it’s amazing you can get these kinds of results.

    The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971
    Under the Act, BLM is required to manage wild horses and burros only in those areas where they were found when the Act passed in 1971

    The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA)
    Under the Act, BLM is required to manage public lands under the principles of multiple use and sustainable yield.

    Managing use by cattle and sheep, together with wildlife and wild horses and burros, and a host of other uses is a key part of BLM’s multiple use management mission under FLPMA.

    For more information about the BLM’s wild horse and burro program, or to learn how you can adopt please contact us at:

    Phone: 1-866-4Mustangs (1-866-468-7826)
    Facebook: BLMWildHorseandBurro

    Last updated: 06-16-2010

  11. Donna Buscemi said

    Here’s a link to the May BLM Tuscarora video that shows the water issues

  12. So there IS a reservoir of water on Public Lands but the water is owned “Privately”? And Tom Gorey is making “assumptions” about the water. How much does Gorey get paid to “make assumptions”. Seems the BLM has been creating self full- filling prophecy out there in Nevada BLM land.
    This article explains in all—

  13. Roxy said

    Tracie, any further confirmation that the wells were actually turned off? Kind of obviuos I suppose – but I’m not seeing that reported anywhere else. I would think this would be important information to the law suit.

    • said

      I haven’t talked with the private land owners about this but I can say “unofficially” – I suppose that’s the word LOL – the pumps to the wells in question are typically not running unless there is reason for them to be running… Like when there are livestock grazing during AUMs. Currently, the AUMs are “off-season”, there are no livestock grazing the allotments, and consequently, I would have to conclude that the wells were not running. You have to remember: the water rights to the Desert Ranch Reservoir were claimed by the private landowners back in the early 1900s when the land was homesteaded. While the actual reservoir itself is on public lands, the water it contains is not. The property line runs parallel to the reservoir, so it made sense to the original homesteaders to claim the rights. This was before BLM even existed from what I understand so far. Therefore the argument of “BLM should enforce their water rights” is null & void because they have none now and they’ve never had them. If my research turns up something different, I will let ya’ll know soon as I can. T.

  14. sandra longley said

    O.K., I need some clarification here..I am continually reading about this cattle allotment that was rencently rested on the Owyhee, and there are conficting statements made on the facts..Is it normally a year around allotment as previously used? If it is a year around allotment, why was that being allowed if there is such a shortage of food and water on the area of the Owyhee? Historically speaking, as being claimed by the BLM.

  15. sandra longley said

    Did anyone double check this information with katie from WWP since she covered all these HMAs before the roundup and seemed to have some pretty clear conclusions?

  16. sandra longley said

    Since katie noted in her testimony that the gate was closed to the Owyhee HMA, that explains WHY the horses had not migrated out of this HMA as would have been normal at this time of year..It seems the only rumor to…

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