Winnemucca, NV—On Monday, Aug. 5, the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest will begin to remove tribal members’ privately-owned horses from the Santa Rose Ranger District and return them to their rightful owners. This is the second in a series of operations and could take up to eight days with at least 800 horses expected to be removed.
“Over the past 30 years, the number of unauthorized tribally-owned horses grazing on tribal and public lands increased to more than 2,500 horses,” said Santa Rosa District Ranger Joe Garrotto. “These horses are competing for forage with native wildlife and authorized livestock, overgrazing, harming ecosystems, and damaging fences and stock-watering facilities.”
Tribal Chairman Tildon Smart agrees with the Forest Service about these horses being a major concern. “They are causing safety issues for people driving on public and tribal lands and on U.S. Route 95,” Chairman Smart said. “They are also damaging important tribal natural and cultural resources.”
The removal operations will take place about 75 miles north of Winnemucca, Nevada, on the northern portion of the Santa Rosa Ranger District and adjacent tribal lands. The horses being removed from federally-managed public lands are tribally-owned domestic horses, and are not protected under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. Safeguards have been built into the removal operations plan to ensure that wild horses from the Bureau of Land Management’s Little Owyhee Herd Management Area are not impacted. No wild horses were gathered in a previous removal efforts.
“The Forest Service will retain control of gathered horses until they are delivered to the tribal holding facility, where they will be inspected by a team of Tribal and Nevada State Brand Inspectors and Forest Service Wild Horse Specialists,” said Garrotto. “Forest Service personnel will also be on hand to record the ownership of horses to help with future management.”
Chairman Smart explained that once the horses are removed from federally-managed public lands, tribal members will decide whether to sell or keep their horses and constrain them from further unauthorized grazing. The Tribe is responsible for returning the horses to their owners or arrangement of sale.
“With the help of the Forest Service, we were able to remove more than 500 horses off National Forest System land in December 2018,” added Chairman Smart. “After a recent helicopter survey, we estimate that there are still around 2,000 tribal horses that need to be removed.”
Public viewing is extremely limited since most of the activities will occur on tribal lands. There will be opportunities to view limited helicopter operations on National Forest System (NFS) lands on or around Aug. 7, 2019 provided that it does not jeopardize the safety of the animals, staff or observers, and that it does not disrupt removal operations. There will be no public access to tribal lands
Please contact Public Affairs Staff Officer Erica Hupp at 775-771-4777 prior to the desired viewing date to be added to the attendee list and to receive specific instructions on meeting locations and times. The Forest Service will escort the public to the observation site, which will be difficult to access without a high-clearance four wheel drive vehicle.