In considering a response to the BLM’s proposed Fish Creek Herd Management Area (HMA) wild horse gather and fertility control treatment, Natural Resources Manager Jake Tibbitts reported to the Eureka commissioners that the BLM got the Fish Creek Herd Management Area on schedule and are proposing to gather upwards of 550 horses.

The BLM plans on removing approximately 200 within the next couple of months. According to what the BLM wild horse specialist told Tibbitts, it is more likely 150 will be taken off. Every mare not gathered will be treated with a PCP vaccine to prevent pregnancy. Tibbitts said the BLM “might as well throw dollar bills out the window.”

He said the BLM is developing a ten-year plan and are analyzing multiple gathers to determine things to do to get to AUM within 10 years. Such an outcome seems out of reach when the Fish Creek gather will still leave 250 percent of the horses on the range, Tibbitts pointed out.

Tibbitts said the BLM does outline many management actions which will eliminate having to do an EA every time they want to do something.

Tibbitts having reviewed it, has written a response which “hammers on” the fact there is “no socio-economic analysis in here whatsoever” related to the “reduction of forage for livestock.” He said the BLM has “not reached out to the county at all as far as roads and access. Tibbitts noted gathers will close down county roads and draw special interest advocacy groups requiring crowd control which would involve law enforcement under the authority of the sheriff. He is addressing “a whole host of issues” in his response for the county.

He plans on telling the BLM that Eureka County wants to see the horses managed at the appropriate level consistent with what County wants to see. He noted every time the BLM gives “that shot three or four dollars goes back to the Humane Society,” which he characterized as an “anti-livestock” group; saying that such monies “pad the pockets of group opposed to the things that drive our economy.”

Tibbitts noted there are a lot of water issues involved. He said the only way to make having wild horses on the range work is by pumping and hauling water. In this instance water is hauled for horses from Diamond Valley, an adjacent basin, to keep the troughs filled.

Tibbitts said another “issue that’s really came to the forefront” is the “large amount of elk moving into the area.” Tibbitts said NDOW and the County Master Plan want the land preserved for mule deer habitat, and the growing elk population forage is in direct competition with the livestock industry as well.

Suddenly the elk are also “competing for those resources that were allocated to preexisting users,” he said. Tibbitts notes “the ranching impacts are huge” as permittees have already reduced permitted livestock numbers by an average of 15 percent while horses are at 315 percent of where they should be. Tibbitts said even upon achieving 250 percent after the gather, active foaling will be going on soon.

“The plan is being dictated from the national level, but it’s important for us to preserve our position,” he said.