Twin Peaks Wild Horse and Burro Herd Mangement Area
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Twin Peaks Wild Horse and Burro Herd Mangement Area

August 15, 2019

[Nancy Haug – BLM Northern California District Manager]
Hi, I’m standing in the Twins Peaks Herd Management Area in Northern California. This is the largest wild horse and burro management area in BLM California. This summer we’re planning a gather to bring in excess horses and burros because we have too many on the range right now and it’s not healthy for either the horses, the burros, or the range that they live on. We manage for a lot of uses out here. Horses and burros are one of them, as well as cattle and public recreation and so it’s important to make sure that we balance all of these uses and make sure that we’re taking care of the land that we’re in charge to manage. Today we’re going to take you around and show you some of the herd management area. We’ll show you some of the areas that wild horses and the burros like to live, where they range, what they eat. We might even be able to see horses and burros today, that’s our plan. [Male Voice with view of range and mountains in background]
Straddling the Nevada-California border, about 120 miles north of Reno, Nevada, this rugged, high desert landscape, provides important habitat for wild horses and burros and wildlife. It also provides forage for domestic livestock grazing that is an important part of local economies. The appropriate management level for the Twin Peaks herd management area is 448 to 758 wild horses and 72 to 116 wild burros. The current populations are estimated at 2,300 wild horses, about 5 times the appropriate management level and 280 wild burros, about 2 times the appropriate management level. At almost 800,000 acres, the region is vast but its resources limited. In fact many parts of this rugged looking landscape are fragile and require careful management. [Jennifer Mata – BLM Ecologist]
We’re standing here on the edge of Twin Peaks herd management area. Wanted to show you the perennial grasses that are out here and explain a little bit too why they’re important. So before me is some crested wheat grass, and you’ll see that it’s critical, it’s good forage for wild horses and burros. It also serves as thermal cover for a lot of the smaller species that we have; birds and lizards and things like that. It serves also as a purpose of keeping the soil in place. It helps to bind the soil particles together for the root system and also shields the soil particles from rain drop impact. In this part of the HMA things are higher in elevation so we end up with more production. These perennial grasses that you see behind me are plentiful and can provide more forage per acre, whereas other parts of the HMA are lower elevation and end up with approximately 30 acres per one horse a month, and we’ll show you that a little later when we get to one of those spots. So here we are in a lower elevation area of the Twin Peaks HMA and while it certainly is beautiful, looks can be deceiving. This area here would take about 30 football fields or 30 acres to support one horse per month. It comes out to be a lot of country when you consider we want about 500 horses in the HMA. There are other uses out here as well such as pronghorn, mule deer and permitted livestock grazing. [Male Voice with horses in the background]
The horses and burros are healthy, and much of the range appears to be healthy as well. A closer look however reveals that some areas are showing signs of stress, requiring management actions, including reducing the wild horse herds. Limited water and the needs to keep water sources healthy are the primary management concerns in Twin Peaks. [Jennifer Mata – standing in a creek]
So we’re at Painters Creek now. This is an area that we would call functioning at risk during our riparian assessments. Some of the indicators here as to why things are not properly functioning, you can see the sluff banks here – this is due to trampling from livestock and horses when they come down in. If the right type of riparian vegetation isn’t here, the root system isn’t stable enough to hold the soil in place. You’ll actually get it sluffing off, destabilizing the banks and also causing a decrease in water quality. So there are several reasons why we want to keep riparian areas from becoming this degraded, while we want to see them in proper functioning conditions and not functioning at risk. That includes for the health of the wildlife that uses the area, as well as the health of the twin peaks horse herds. It’s important to keep this water system available and functioning year-round since water is such a limiting factor in these area environments. So this is an example of a properly functioning riparian area. Some of the indicators that you would look for would be riparian species covering the banks, which is what you see here, aquatic vegetation throughout the stream channel. Clear water that can support wildlife such as the fish, the minnows, that you see in the creek behind us, as well as stabilized banks. [Male Voice – view of creek in background]
Visited during the spring, much of the Twin Peaks area appears vibrant and green. But this situation changes over the course of the summer. Hot weather and the lack of rain reduce the amount of forage available for range animals, including wild horses and burros. To keep ranges healthy, the BLM must balance uses at sustainable levels. Livestock are managed in specific areas and allowed on the range for designated grazing seasons. In response to resource conditions the BLM and ranchers have reduced livestock numbers by about 50 percent compared to 30 years ago. Wild horses and burros use the range all year, therefore herd populations must be maintained at sustainable levels. Balancing uses is part of the BLM’s multiple use mandate and responsibility on the public lands. [Jack Hanson – Lassen County Supervisor]
The wild horses are an integral part and an important part of that diversity that’s found out on the ranges. However if their numbers are allowed to increase without management then eventually it will come to damage not only the resources and the other uses on the ranges but the wild horses themselves. [Frank Hall – Biologist, California Department of Fish and Wildlife-retired]
Twin Peaks has always had the ability to carry some horses. When numbers get very, very high, you can really run into problems. What in effect happens is more animals end up being at risk and there can be a setup for catastrophic losses either from a long term drought or heavy snow. [Nancy Haug – BLM Northern California District Manager]
You know we’re proud of the fact that we have healthy wild horses and burros on the Twin Peaks herd management area. It’s important to us to be proactive and make sure that we keep the horses and burros within an appropriate management level. Therefore we come out and every few years we have to remove the excess horses and burros and that helps us ensure that the horses and burros remain healthy as well as the range lands that they like to roam on. The wild horse and burros that we remove off the Twin Peaks herd management area all go to good homes. Some of them are adopted out, they are very popular for their size and their health and some of them go to long term pastures. It’s important to BLM that these wild horses and burros do end up in good homes or in the long term pastures where they can spend the rest of their lives. As public land managers our job is to manage wild horses and burros on the range to keep both the horses and burros healthy as well as the range lands and we welcome and encourage your involvement in that work. It takes all of us together to make sure that we’re doing the right thing by the horses and the burros and the land. [Closing – contact information, phone numbers and emails, along with logos]

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  1. Looks like you have been grazing a bid too much lady, leave the horses alone, they are not hurting the area around the water, the livestock are. Follow the money, so there are the livestock.

  2. What you do not understand is this is a desert, snow covered in winter, dry in the summer with sparse grass, and very little rain. The way we pay for some of these horses to be provided for ( I.E. they are fed hay in the winter when the ground is covered with snow) is to range cattle on those grounds as well. I have worked in these areas, and you can tell that the horses could use extra groceries

  3. Who says that cattle ( a commerce business that is otherwise raised on land owned by the person making money off the cattle) are more important? then wild horses?

  4. When they said there is 50 percent less cattle and horses on the land then there was 30 years ago, I'd like that figure divided. What percent less of cattle and what percentage less of horses? My guess is the horses are making up the biggest portion of that 50 percent. This kind of statement is part of why I am mistrusting of the BLM and others that give out deceiving remarks but don't actually lie to do it. It's just not right.

  5. But do you understand that little is paid for the cattle on the range and the cattle also are eating the food on the range which the cattlemen make money on?

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