Drought conditions across the West have impacted rangelands, leaving little water and forage for animals and livestock, prompting the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to undertake targeted actions, such as providing supplemental water and food for wild horses; reducing grazing; and enacting fire restrictions.
Hot, dry conditions continue to persist west of the Mississippi River, with at least 15 states experiencing drought. For example, 93 percent of rangeland and pastures are rated poor or very poor in New Mexico; 59 percent in Colorado; 35 percent in Wyoming; and 17 percent in Utah. Similar conditions exist in Nevada, where more than 60 percent of the state has been in severe or extreme drought conditions since the beginning of 2013.
“Since last fall and winter, we have been working with grazers across the West in anticipation of tough conditions related to drought. In southwestern Montana, for example, the BLM worked with permitted ranchers to graze no more than 70 percent of their alloted forage on BLM-managed lands,” said BLM Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze. “As drought conditions continue, wild horses, livestock, and wildlife that rely on rangeland forage and water will face extremely challenging conditions that may leave them in very poor condition. We are taking action to address these situations as quickly and as effectively as we can, but our options are increasingly limited by conditions on the land.”
In Nevada, all BLM Districts have been hauling water to wild horses. There, the BLM is trucking 5,000 gallons of water per day, five days a week to four separate locations throughout the Winnemucca District at a cost of $1,000 per day.
In the next few days, a USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service veterinarian will join BLM specialists in assessing horses in Lincoln County, Nev., after BLM employees noted that horses were not drinking water from trucked-in troughs and were not eating supplemental hay. This raised concerns about the health of the animals.
Over the past week in Nevada, average temperatures have been 10 degrees above normal, hovering around 100 degrees. The state has recently had only 0.1 to 0.5 inches of rain, resulting in sparse, poor-quality forage. In addition, scarce water sources have put pressure on all users, including wild horses, livestock, and wildlife; causing long-lasting damage to plants, stream channels, spring areas, and water quality.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's multiple-use mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2012, activities on public lands generated $4.6 billion in revenue, much of which was shared with the States where the activities occurred. In addition, public lands contributed more than $112 billion to the U.S. economy and helped support more than 500,000 jobs.