The Bureau of Land Management, Humboldt River Field Office (HRFO) will be extending the public comment period on the Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA) for the Winnemucca Off-range Corrals (ORC). The comment period will now conclude on Friday, Oct.1, 2021, at 4:30 p.m. (PDT).  The move came not long after a special Humboldt County Commission meeting held Sept. 15, in which the 5-member board unanimously voted to request an extension of the public comment period and asked to be designated as a cooperating agency.

The PEA is for a wild horse and burro off-range corrals holding facility located in Paradise Valley, Nevada. The proposed 100-acre facility would hold no more than 4,000 wild horses and burros and the perimeter of the facility would be fenced. The contractor will be responsible for getting all required Federal, State, or local permits for the facility. 

The facility will serve as short-term holding and preparation facilities for animals to be transferred to off-range pastures or adoption and sale locations throughout the country. The facility will be staffed by contract personnel and overseen by BLM Nevada State Office staff with the knowledge, skills, and ability to handle wild horses and burros and provide appropriate veterinary care safely and humanely. 

Commissioners raised several concerns about the proposed facility, including questioning if the proposed facility is in line with the county’s Master Plan. 

“The board believes it should have been consulted on possible socio-economic impacts related to this proposal,” they stated in a letter to the BLM. “The proposed facility could have negative environmental impacts including dust, odor, runoff, water quality, erosion, manure accumulation. Furthermore, the location of the proposed facility is near a semi-residential area of ranchettes. The commissioners believe it is in the best interest of all stakeholders to conduct further research to get a clearer picture of how this proposed facility will impact the county.”

Commissioner Ron Cerri said he is also concerned about impacts on the hay market, and whether there would be sufficient resources to feed 4,000+ horses at the facility as well as support those who raise livestock for a living.  He also pointed out the amount of nitrates that would be dumped into the water table from animal waste.

Commissioner Ken Tipton said one of the biggest issues that gives him pause is the impact on the county landfill and the increased deposits of dead horses. According to the proposal, officials project there will be a deceased horse every 2 days (on average) that will need to be disposed of at the landfill. 

“That’s for 4,000,” Tipton said, referencing the population count of the facility. “At 10,000, which it could be expanded to, it could be one or two horses every day. It’s another good reason to be included in the discussion.” 

Citizen Mark Evatz chimed in for public comment via a phone call and suggested the commissioners tour the Palamino Valley holding facility in Washoe County. He said the “short term” facility was constructed in the mid-1970s and is still operating today.

“Just over the hill in Washoe County you can see what one of these turns into over the longterm, and this is definitely going to be a longterm event. And once you open that can of worms, you better be prepared for the consequences that come with it,” he said. “Just the general nuisance, the eyesore, odor, dust … There’s the general aspect of taking away what I believe to be the scenic properties heading out to the gem of Paradise Valley. This is just another piece of the BLM punting the overall responsibility of coming up with a comprehensive wild horse management plan.”  

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) removes excess animals from the range to control herd sizes, which can double in population every four years. Wild horses and burros have virtually no natural predators that can control growth of herd size. These rapidly growing herds and the stress they place on public lands requires BLM to remove more animals from the range than the agency can immediately place into private care. Off-range corral facilities provide needed capacity to hold these excess animals. As such, they are essential to BLM’s mission of maintaining healthy wild horse and burro herds on public lands. 

The public comment period on the preliminary environmental assessment will run through October 1, 2021. The public is encouraged to review the PEA, located at https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/2015489/570, and provide substantive comments or concerns, prior to 4:30 p.m. (PDT) on October 1, 2021. All comments received will be fully considered and evaluated for preparation of the final EA. The technical point of contact is Krystle Wengreen, Wild Horse and Burro Specialist, kwengreen@blm.gov, (208) 329-4534. 

If there are issues providing substantive comments to e-planning, comments and concerns may be emailed to wfoweb@blm.gov with “Winnemucca ORC” in the subject line or sent in writing to the BLM Humboldt River Field Office, ATTN: Off Range Corral Project, C/O BLM Nevada, 5100 E. Winnemucca Blvd, Winnemucca NV 89445. Hardcopies of the EA are available upon request from the BLM Winnemucca District Office. 

Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment, including your personal identifying information, may be publicly available at any time. While you can ask that your personal identifying information be withheld from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. Anonymity is not allowed for submissions from organizations or businesses and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or businesses.  

To learn more about the Wild Horse and Burro Program, visit www.blm.gov/whb.