“Avid readers and researchers brought this article to our attention WITH commentary. Often times we issue a “tissue” alert before reading a touching article; not so in this case, instead we will formerly issue a “GAG” alert as anything that is in your alimentary canal may want to take a fast exit after reading the facts about why ranchers really want wild horses removed.” ~ R.T.
Herald And News: Dry Conditions Force Wild Horses Onto Private Land
The Klamath Falls Herald and News | July 12, 2014 8 p.m. | Updated: July 14, 2014 3:37 p.m. | Dorris, California
LACEY JARRELL H&N Staff Reporter
Roger Porterfield was a courteous, but reluctant host when 90 uninvited guests began showing up at his ranch, grazing his land and depleting his water holes. Even as the guests brazenly took hay from his cattle feeders day after day, Porterfield accommodated them, until one day enough was enough and he asked them to leave.
In late 2013, Porterfield, of Porterfield Ranch in Dorris, Calif., filed an official complaint with the Bureau of Land Management stating wild horses were moving off the nearby Red Rocks Lakes Herd Management Area and onto his property in search of food and water. At the time, Porterfield noted about 30 to 40 horses were bypassing his fences and helping themselves to his livestock stores.
“Feed and water are crucial for the ranch operation, especially in drought years,” the complaint read. “This situation is totally unacceptable.”
On June 10, BLM officials surveyed the 18,000-acre Red Rocks site and discovered all of its 17 water sources — including the area’s two namesake Red Rock Lakes — were completely dry.
“There’s not even mud in them,” said Doug Satica, manager of Litchfield Wild Horse and Burro Facility near Susanville, Calif.
Just two days later, the agency approved Porterfield’s complaint and began removing wild horses from his ranch. In all, 90 were collected — 30 studs, 45 mares, and 15 foals — and transported 170 miles to the Litchfield Wild Horse and Burro Facility, where they are awaiting adoption.
“Like the rest of the West, it’s abnormally dry. Northern California, by most accounts, is having one of the driest seasons on record,” said Jeff Fontana, BLM Northern California District public information officer.
Water sources dry up
The Red Rocks Lakes BLM Herd Management Area (HMA) is named after the Red Rocks Lakes that, when combined, cover about 75 acres. According to Litchfield manager Satica, they are the area’s main water source.
Alan Uchida, a rangeland management specialist with the Alturas, Calif., BLM office, said the lakes, although shallow, typically hold water for a few months after a wet spring, but the mild winter produced little snow and left fewer water reserves.
“The last time I visited the lakes, they were plumb dry,” Uchida said.
Uchida explained the Red Rocks HMA sits atop a ridge and is surrounded by private land on all sides. He said horses occasionally travel off the HMA in search of food or water, but he’s not surprised many are making regular visits to Porterfield’s property. Porterfield manages 2,000 head of cattle and has the most reliable water sources around, he said.
Fontana explained Red Rocks’ horses and livestock are sustained through summer months by 17 water holes, which are a mixture of natural water sources, like springs and the lakes, and manmade pits positioned to utilize natural runoff flows.
“But we haven’t had a drought like this in a long, long, time,” Satica said.
The drought, which encompasses most of the West, has left horse managers north of the California border, eying emergency plans as well. Jeff Clark, an Oregon BLM public information officer, said his agency hasn’t received any nuisance complaints about mustangs and private water sources yet, but it has plans in place if water becomes scarce for the state’s 4,200 wild horses: Some Eastern Oregon livestock grazers are working with the BLM to keep watering holes full even after their cattle have moved on, and last year in the Lakeview District, water trucks hauled hundreds of gallons of water to replenish wildlife watering holes.
“More than likely, that’s going to happen again,” Clark said.
All wildlife affected
In 1971, Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act to protect, manage, and control wild horses and burros on public lands. The act is intended to allow the animals to roam within reasonable populations that are balanced with other species’ rangeland needs. Although the Red Rocks HMA has a management objective of 16 to 25 horses, officials initially estimated the herd could be as large as 80.
Since Porterfield’s complaint was approved in June, nearly 100 horses have been gathered from his ranch and officials believe there could be more on the HMA.
Rob Sharp, a wild horse management specialist in the Burns BLM office, said horses are no different than other livestock, and although they tend to travel quite a bit between water and forage sites, resources restrict how far they will go.
“When things get really poor, you’ll start to see horses congregate on whatever water source is left, along with other wildlife,” he said.
Fontana emphasized HMAs are not devoted exclusively to horses; domestic livestock, mule deer, pronghorn, upland birds and countless other species utilize the same water resources.
“If there’s no water for horses, there’s no water for wildlife,” Clark said.
Craig Foster, a district biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the water situation in the desert east of Lakeview isn’t dire yet, but some animals are moving to higher elevations, where springs may have received more precipitation.
“If the 95-degree-plus weather continues, water is going to be an issue later in the summer,” he said.
Foster added research has shown when water gets tight, wild horses will protect and defend a resource, preventing other animals, such as deer and pronghorn, from using it. He said if conditions remain dry, it’s likely conflicts between the horses and wildlife will arise.
“It’s going to be a concern, especially in the Beatys Butte area,” he said, noting the Lakeview District’s horse population also is well over its management objective.
THE REST OF THE STORY
This little HMA (Red Rock) is north east of Weed and almost on the Oregon/CA border with a VERY small AML of 25 horses.
Just so you know, the guy Porterfield who is quoted in the below article, and who made the official complaints for wild horse removal has 1041 active AUMs on the HMA equal to about forage enough for 87 wild horses full time if just he didn’t run his cattle there. In addition, I estimated the total AUMs (Porterfield and a few others) at 1795 AUMs which would be equal to about 150 wild horses if they would all get their cattle OFF.
To take it a step further for the sake of argument, if the horses got their legal principal share using multiple use – that would still allow for 88 full time wild horses and an almost equal but slightly smaller number of livestock.
(*** Above numbers from RAS but they are rounded and the grazing allotments used for calculation appear to be almost equal although not exact to the size of the HMA.)
Also, Porterfield received $149,913 in federal farm subsidies (2002-2012) and two of the other ranchers with allotments on the HMA received a combined total of about $300,000 in farm subsidies. If these so-called “ranchers” can’t successfully manage their livestock on their own land without this federal welfare money – then they do NOT belong in the ranching business.
Porterfield is right about one thing … this situation is totally unacceptable BUT it is his personal for-profit livestock on my land and on the land that belongs principally to the wild horses that is unacceptable!
It is much more about the water than even the land.
The Red Rocks seems to be a small HMA (a friend used to go there and said it was very remote and very few horses) and if the ranchers own the water rights and they turn off the springs after removing their livestock (and they DO that!!!) then there would be a water shortage for the wildlife and wild horses. There is no doubt that many of the water catchments (manmade) are dry this year and we must realize that drought is “normal” …… heavy rain years and light rain years are NORMAL. That in itself is not the problem. If the water (springs and natural lakes) was not sucked dry by irrigation then there would not be this problem and if you look at Red Rocks HMA on google earth, it is surrounded by BIG irrigated private fields.
Attached google earth photo I did … HMA is in the middle and surrounded by irrigated corps.
As for Porterfield … They are listed as producing CATTLE GENETICS AND INTERNATIONAL PRODUCER OF CATTLE! i.e. they are insisting that our wild horses be removed in favor of GMO cattle and beef for export (see below).
As for their exact location, I am not sure but believe their main ranch is just east of Dorris and north of the HMA – so I would say 99% sure they are sucking up the water for irrigation for hay for their cattle. It is also common for big ranches to own other bits of ranches that have sold out, so they could have numerous lands in the area and in this article about him when he was awarded cattleman of the year … it does state that they irrigate.
5524 Dorris Brownell Road
Dorris, CA 96023 - View Map
Phone: (530) 397-4726
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A privately held company in Dorris, CA.
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Categorized under Livestock Producers. Our records show it was established in 1965 and incorporated in California. Current estimates show this company has an annual revenue of 280000 and employs a staff of approximately 4.
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