16 AMY DUMAS Trail to a new home

The BLM commitment to place wild horses and burros into adopted homes is a deep one. Amy Dumas shares details on the path from the range to the stable.

HT: What is the Bureau of Land Management’s function when it comes to wild horses and burros?

AMY: The BLM was tasked to manage the wild horses and burros by Congress in 1971 with the passage of the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burros Act. With that, the Congress designated the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service of the USDA to manage wild horses and burros on the lands where they were found in 1971.

HT: And how’s that working for them?

AMY: We have been highly successful in pro- tecting these animals. The Act protects the animals from capture, harassment, branding on the range, and a few other things. So, I think we’ve done a prety good job of doing that.

HT: And what was the purpose of the gov- ernment geting involved to manage these animals?

AMY: The BLM’s mission is to manage the lands that are in its purview for multiple use. Some are uses — like mining, recreation, and livestock – that require permits and are intensely managed. But much of our mission is to manage the resources that use or make up that land, such as the vegetation, the wild horses and burros, the wilderness. We are here to manage and protect that land for all users in perpetuity, whether they are a per- mited use or a resource.

HT: So you manage the adoption aspect of these animals. What is it like for the animals that are on the range?

AMY: In California, we manage all facets of the program, except for long-term pas- tures. We have animals on the range, two preparation (for adoption) corrals, one jail training facility, an adoption program, and volunteers. We have horses, burros, and two areas that have mules. Most of the wild horses and burros are found in 10 Western states. The horses live primarily in the Great Basin Desert, and the burros are primari- ly in the hoter deserts — the Mojave and Chihuahuan deserts, for example. In the wild, the horses and burros on the range spend their days looking for food and water, reproducing — just living and surviving. Much like any other wild animal.

HT: Who decided where these animals could live?

AMY: Congress. The animals can live where they were found at the passage of the Act in 1971. These designated areas are called herd areas. The herd areas are all on public lands, referring to BLM lands. Where we are active- ly managing these animals are called herd management areas, which are located within

the designated herd areas. We must manage not only the animals, but also their habitat because that is the BLM land management’s primary mission.

HT: Sure, it’s where they are grazing. That’s where they get their food and water. There’s not a whole lot to eat, so you have to deter- mine how many head per acre. Just as the permited users can only have a certain number of catle if they are running catle out there per acre, based upon the vegeta- tion.

AMY: Not only the vegetation and the pro- ductivity of the land, but also the water. Water is a very limiting resource out in the desert, as you are well aware. Sometimes people are under the false impression that we have lands that are covered in Kentucky bluegrass, for example. This is not the East Coast where they have water and rain. This is the desert where forage is limited and forage production is limited — as is water. Those are two of our biggest limiting factors that determine how many animals can be out there. We also must keep in mind everything

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