BLM Releases Analysis of Proposed Wild Horse Ecosanctuary

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The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Missoula, Montana, Field Office is beginning a public comment period on an environmental assessment which analyzes a proposed wild horse ecosanctuary.

The nonprofit Rural Sustainability Organization (RSO) submitted an application to the BLM to establish an ecosanctuary on approximately 15,000 acres of land in western Montana secured by RSO through contracts and leases with local landowners. The RSO application lands are located in three separate units varying from two to eight miles from the town of Drummond.

“The Missoula Field Office is excited about the prospect of working with RSO to provide a humane, high-quality life for excess horses from the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro program,” said Tim La Marr, acting field manager of the Missoula Field Office.

“Horses that would potentially reside at the ecosanctuary would primarily be older geldings,” he added.

The field office's environmental analysis evaluated two action alternatives:

  • The first alternative considers the RSO proposal to support up to 325 wild horses.
  • The second alternative is based on public scoping, ecological conditions, wildlife issues, and wild horse welfare. A carrying capacity assessment of the lands jointly conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the BLM determined the parcels could support approximately 97 horses.

Both alternatives would entail some supplemental feeding during winter.

If the proposal is approved, the BLM would sponsor the ecosanctuary at a funding level comparable to what it pays for the care of wild horses on long-term pastures in the Midwest. The ecosanctuary would be publicly accessible and provide ecotourism and educational opportunities which would help defray costs for operating the sanctuary.

The Missoula Field Office is accepting public comment on the environmental analysis for 30 days beginning June 23. The analysis is available for review on the field office’s website. Additionally, a public meeting to provide information about the ecosanctuary environmental analysis will be held in Philipsburg on July 1 at 6 p.m. at the Granite County Museum, located at 135 South Sansome.

To ensure comments and information are fully considered, the BLM should ideally receive public input in writing by July 22. Public comments are most useful when they are specific, cite additional relevant issues, or bring forth new credible information not previously considered by the BLM. After comments are analyzed and incorporated into the environmental analysis, where appropriate, the BLM will issue a final decision.

Comments can be emailed to blm_mt_missoula_fo@blm.gov, or written comments can be mailed or hand-delivered to Steve Bell, Missoula Field Office, 3255 Fort Missoula Road, Missoula, MT 59804.

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—could be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, the BLM cannot guarantee that they will be able to do so.

If you have questions, or would like to request a hard copy of the environmental analysis, please contact Bell at 406/329-3885.

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