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

Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge Reviewing Plans to Remove All Wild Horses and Burros

Posted by Texas Mustang Project on August 4, 2010


 

Quick Message from the TMP Team:
Everyone, please remember that this site is not now, nor has it ever been run, operated, or affiliated with the BLM, WH&B Program, or the FWS. Any and all comments that are directed at these agencies need to be sent to those agencies directly as they will not receive them from TMP. TMP is a place for open views and open discussions, as well as a place for information distribution. You are welcome to post any comments directed at any of these agencies here as a “vent” or rant because let’s face it, we all need to do that sometimes. Just please remember that you also need to send them directly to those agencies as we cannot do so for you.
Thank you,
The TMP Team

The Sheldon NWR has revised their management plans to include alternatives that would remove all wild horses and burros from within its boundaries. Sheldon has a wild horse management program currently in place at the refuge, but according to refuge staff the number of horses is still too great. Paul Steblein is the project leader at the refuge.  

“What we’re talking about is having one place in the West that has great sagebrush habitat, where wildlife species that are declining can prosper,” Steblein said. “If we want to preserve the natural heritage of the Great Basin, Sheldon is a critical refuge for conservation, and the wild horses make that impossible.” 

The revision to the existing management plan for the NWR includes three action alternatives for Horse and Burro Management. The first is the “No Action Alternative”, which says to continue their current plan of “maintaining relatively stable populations of approximately 800 horses and 80 burros. Populations would continue to be controlled through gathers, adoption, sanctuary, and contraception.” 

The second action alternative is a little more proactive, and is also preferred by the NWR. The “Intensive Management Alternative” includes plans to remove all feral horses and burros within 5 years, and a statement of the following:  

“In addition to the No Action Alternative, include the option for sale or auction if other methods of population control are ineffective.” 

The third action alternative is a little less aggressive but has the same end result of no horses or burros within NWR boundaries. The “Low Intensity Management Alternative” stretches the deadline for eviction to 15 years and includes the “same as the Intensive Management Alternative, except more gradual annual population reductions.” 

Horses and burros removed from the NWR would be put up for adoption or be sold at auction. 

On the Sheldon NWR website’s information page “Feral horses and burros”, the following statements are made: 

  • “Based on current population and recruitment estimates, the annual removal would roughly equal 140 to 180 horses and 15 to 20 burros.”
  •  “After nearly two years of planning and public comment we believe this revised management plan will: prevent an increase in damage to valuable and sensitive Refuge habitats, including riparian areas; lower the risk these animals pose on public safety by preventing increases in collisions with vehicles on Highway 140; and conduct gathers and adoptions in a safe and humane manner at about the 2007 levels of 800 horses and 90 burros. The Service identified and evaluated alternatives for managing horses and burros until a Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the Refuge is completed in 2010.”
  • Feral horses and burros are common sightings off Hwy 140 East, and have spread to almost all areas of the refuge. Burros are often seen in the flats east of Thousand Creek and throughout Virgin Valley.
  • “Free-roaming horses frequent refuge water holes and stream sides between the Badger and Catnip Mountains. Just like livestock, they impact the environment and compete with native wildlife for water and food.  Horses and burros are periodically relocated off the refuge to keep their numbers in check.”

The Sheldon NWR page states it was last updated July 21, 2010. Links to documents and contact information are provided below. 

Horse & Burro Management  

The revised final Environmental Assessment (EA) and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) can be found below: 

For comparison purposes, the 2007 revised EA and FONSI can be found below. A comparison chart is located on pages 1-6 in the summary at the beginning of the April 2008 revised Environmental Assessment above: 

Questions should be e-mailed to sheldon-hart@fws.gov 

Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan 

Current Status:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is in the process of developing a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. The CCP will describe the desired future conditions of the refuge and provide long-range guidance and management direction to achieve refuge purposes; and help fulfill the National Wildlife Refuge System (Refuge System) mission and goals. Currently, in
Planning Update 3, we described our Preliminary Alternatives, and request your comment on them. 

Documents and Information Available Online:
You can read, print, or download the following documents online using Adobe Acrobat’s Portable Document Format (PDF). A free copy of the Adobe software is available from the
Adobe website. 

Planning Updates: 

Public Scoping Report: 

  

Visit the Refuges’ Official Website: http://www.fws.gov/sheldonhartmtn/Sheldon/index.html 

Project Contacts: Use this link to submit your comments to us electronically 

Send Written Comments to:
Paul Steblein, Project Leader
Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge
P.O. Box 111
Lakeview, OR 97630
Fax: (541) 947-4414
Add me to the mailing list 

Websites: 

Information Updated as of: July 2010

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12 Responses to “Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge Reviewing Plans to Remove All Wild Horses and Burros”

  1. Sabine said

    I would like to see some scientific papers or research as to what impact the horses and burros really have.According to some biologists,the impact is negligable to positive for most areas so please include something that tells us what that statement of negative impact is based on.The fact is that horses are able to dig up water when there is none on the surface and that benefits other species.When mustangs are sold in auction,many end up in slaughter.The whole management of the mustangs right now is unacceptable.

  2. Mary Cooke said

    If there are predators around that keeps the numbers of horses in check. It will also serve to keep herds healthy as the weak, old & sick are caught, killed & eaten. If there are none there I suggest you reintroduce them. If that is done none will have to be removed sold or anything else. Horses are reintroduced & MUST be allowed to stay were they have lived all this time. Once predators are there & reproduce then you should see numbers of horses even level out. That will not happen over night. Please consider what I have said! They deserve life as they have always known it, being free!

  3. Quick Message from the TMP Team:
    Everyone, please remember that this site is not now, nor has it ever been run, operated, or affiliated with the BLM, WH&B Program, or the FWS. Any and all comments that are directed at these agencies need to be sent to those agencies directly as they will not receive them from TMP. TMP is a place for open views and open discussions, as well as a place for information distribution. You are welcome to post any comments directed at any of these agencies here as a “vent” or rant because let’s face it, we all need to do that sometimes. Just please remember that you also need to send them directly to those agencies as we cannot do so for you.
    Thank you,
    The TMP Team

  4. Ace said

    Rest assured that as the proud owner of two adopted wild mustangs myself, I support maintaining herds of wild free roaming horses– where they are appropriate.

    A national wildlife refuge is NOT an appropriate place for feral animals, whether they are cats, dogs, rats, pigs, goats, horses, or any of the other types of feral animals found on many of our wildlife refuges. Feral horses have been allowed to remain on the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge far too long and its about time they were removed so the refuge can get back to their job of protecting native wildlife like pronghorn, sage grouse, pygmy rabbits and all the other imperilled wildlife out there. Let’s focus our efforts (and tax dollars) on maintaining healthy herds on the millions of acres of BLM and National Forest lands set aside for just such purposes.

    • Ace, I don’t think I could’ve said it better myself! The American Wild Mustang is entitled to his share of the public lands, but just because he has stolen our hearts he doesn’t have the right to take from other native species. I think that fact is all too often forgotten.
      T.

    • sandra longley said

      Ace, I guess you are unaware that the Supreme court has catagorized the wild horse not as feral, but as “wildlife” and that designation was affirmed in the federal court of appeals, it is time we quit using the term “feral” to describe wild horses, unless you apply that to all wildlife in america with the exception of turkeys and llamas, which are the only 2 species native-all others were introduced species..the facts are, that a wildlife refuge should be home to all “wildlife” and that includes the wild horses whose numbers are less than the sage grouse, who is approaching the endangered list..how the small numbers of wild horses on the land compared to say the “big horn sheep” numbering 70,000 plus-wild horses actually on the land being around 30,000..wouldn’t you agree, it is the other wildlife as well as welfare cattle ranching who are taking the lions share of forage from the wild horses????

      • sandra longley said

        For further research I would recommend the 5 part series done by the Canadian National Geographic, on the benifits of the herds of wild horses to the herds of mule deer-and how the deer used the wild herds for protection, and the decline and disappearing herds of wild horses in Canada has had a direct effect on the herds of mule deer-as told by an old mustanger in that canadian country..not some 2 bit scientist.

      • Anonymous said

        We need to make the distinction between areas where the WFRH&B Act applies and where it does not. The Act does not apply to National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges- so in fact, and by law, horses there are feral. Horses on BLM and USFS lands are legally wild and based on Sandra’s comment are “wildlife” according to the Supreme Court [U.S. and not state I assume]. Furthermore, the horses on Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge can be traced back to specifc ranches in the area and that history is well documented through government grazing permits and reports.

        As for numbers, horses are not birds or sheep– you can’t compare numbers of individuals. Each animal uses different habiats, have different effects on those habitats, and have been impacted differently by people. The biology is totally different! But thats really not the problem– our tax money is being spent to manage horses on Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge which increase 20-25% per year and NOT the imperilled wildlife which are being decimated. Thats the mission for the refuge– to conserve wildife. If we cant protect endangered animals like sage grouse in the relatively tiny area of Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge then what’s the point? All those BLM herd managmement areas were set aside by Congress to protect horses and burros– National Wildlife Refuges were set aside by Congress to protect pronghorn, sage grouse, bighorn sheep, and all the other wildlife that were/are being threatened by overhunting, land development, habitat conversion, and grazing by cattle, sheep, and yes– horses too.

        • sandra longley said

          Would you care to refer me to that “documentation”..It is not “well known folklore” I presume..and since you are unaware of the supreme court case, Kleppe vs New Mexico-the word “federal court appeals”, was a clue that it was not state orientated. The costs of Managing the Sheldon Refuge are a drop in the bucket compared to the costs of roundups removals and life time costs of care of wild horses in holding..that premise holds no water, and given the level of managment being currently implemented-it is in fact laughable that you find that a basis for your argument for removals

          • Ace said

            Sandra– the documentation is referenced at http://www.fws.gov/sheldonhartmtn/sheldon/horseburro.html and cited in the Environmental Assessment which can be found at the same website. As you will also see in the EA, horses gathered from Sheldon Refuge are either adopted or sterilized– there are no long-term holding costs. Here again you are confusing the U.S. Fish and Widlife Service with the Bureau of Land Management.

  5. sandra longley said

    I would like to suggest that Western Watersheds could and would do a better job of managing Sheldon, as government run programs are a dead end for the taxpayer and wildlife..they tend to be run by those who can not find or hold jobs in the private sector.

  6. […] in the Federal Register where the opportunity for public comment was announced, not to mention here on TMP on August 04, 2010 and again on September 02, 2010. Both posts contained documents related to or […]

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