After years of work, the U.S. Forest Service on Friday finalized an updated management plan for the wild horses that roam the Ochoco National Forest.
The plan calls for a herd size between 47-57 horses in a territory that is a little over 25,000 acres.
The original plan has been on the books since 1975.
“This brings up to the current climate and conditions we have now,” said Kassidy Kern, Public Affairs Officer with the Ochoco National Forest.
The move comes as the population swelled to upwards of 150, causing horses to move out of their designated territory, damaging sensitive areas of the forest, and decreasing forage for other wildlife and livestock.
“We also have multiple uses out there and so how are we managing this herd to sustain them into the future to maximize their genetic variability or increase it while also understanding that we need to do the same for deer and elk habitat and we need to provide opportunities for livestock grazing as well,” Kern said.
The process drew passionate comments from both sides of the fence.
Gayle Hunt of the Central Oregon Wild Horse Coalition was disappointed with the decision.
“We’re a lot more comfortable with the current number that seems to be natural for them. Our contention is also that this forest can support a much bigger herd, it has and it can,” Hunt said.
Hunt said the organization has not ruled out legal action.
The Forest Service will gather and remove horses, a process that could start as early as this fall and take up to five years to reach the desired levels.
Contraception medications could be used to control fertility and slow the growth of the herd.
The plan also lays out an Emergency Action Framework to deal with equine who may be suffering.
“We love this herd, we want this herd to sustain well into the future,” Kern said.
Central Oregon Daily’s Steve Kaufmann has been working on this story, and in the video above, has more background on the wild horse herd and the issues that lead to the changes.
You can read the plan here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/nepa/100829_FSPLT3_5635287.pdf