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Ochoco Wild Horse Herd Management Plan #46228

Commenting on This Project

Dear Reader:

This letter is to inform you that the draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Ochoco Wild Horse Management Plan Project has been completed and is now available for review and comment.  This letter provides a brief summary of the project, information on the official 30-day public comment period, and how to obtain a copy of the EA.  The project was first announced in June 2017.  Since that time, the Forest has been working to develop alternatives and complete a thorough analysis.

Background Information

The Forest is proposing an update to management of the Ochoco wild horse herd because the current plan, written in 1975, is outdated.  Changed conditions, new analysis tools, and new management tools need to be taken into account in an updated plan.  The current herd management plan prescribes a range of 55 to 65 wild horses on the Big Summit Territory as an Appropriate Management Level (AML). The management plan was created following a 1975 environmental assessment of the wild horses and their territory.  Recent surveys estimate at least 135 horses living within and surrounding the territory at any given time.  Many of the tools currently available for the management of wild horses were not included in the 1975 plan.  The Forest Service needs an updated management plan based on today’s conditions, available tools, and latest science.

Alternatives Considered in the EA

The EA analyzes three alternatives:  Alternative 1 is “No Action” under which the current plan would not change and the Appropriate Management Level (AML) would remain at a population range of 55-65 wild horses.  Alternative 2 would incorporate measures to slow population growth, increase genetic variability, and maintain an appropriate management level (AML) of 12 to 57 wild horses.  Alternative 2 was based on an analysis of the essential habitat components of water, forage, cover and space.  The most limiting factor in the Big Summit Territory is winter range forage.  Alternative 3, is an additional alternative that was developed at the request of some members of the public to manage at an AML of 150 to 200 wild horses.  The EA compares the environmental consequences of these three alternatives.  Alternative 2 is the agency’s preferred alternative. 

Forest Plan Amendments:  The Ochoco Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) was authorized in 1989.  The LRMP includes direction for managing wild horses at a specific level of a maximum of 60 horses.  Rather than managing a wild horse herd for specific population number, the LRMP amendment, described in the Draft EA, would allow establishment of a herd size range based on essential habitat components (water, forage, cover, and space) which will provide greater flexibility in management to adjust for annual population growth, drought, climate change impacts, disturbance (such as wildfire), rangeland health, and other resource needs.

  

How to Comment and Timeframe

The Draft EA is available on the Forest Service web site:  http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=46228.  A hardcopy is available upon request by contacting Beth Peer at beth.peer@usda.gov or 541-416-6463.

Notice for the opportunity to comment on this EA will be published in The Bulletin (Bend, Oregon), which is the newspaper of record for the Ochoco National Forest.  The comment period ends 30 days following the date of that publication.  Do not rely on any other sources for the beginning date of the comment period.  As a courtesy, the legal notice will also publish in the Central Oregonian (Prineville, Oregon).  The legal notice will be posted to the project web page after it is published.  Comments received after the 30-day comment period will be considered but will not provide the commenter with standing for objection.  Those wishing to be eligible to object must meet the information requirements of 36 CFR 218.

NOTICE: Documents associated with this project, including public comments, are part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process (40 CFR parts 1500-1509) and may be released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 5 U.S.C. 552. Comments received in response to this solicitation, including names and addresses of those who comment, will become part of the public record for this proposed action. Comments submitted anonymously will be accepted and considered; however, anonymous comments will not provide the agency with the ability to provide the respondent with subsequent environmental documents or the eligibility to object.

Electronic, written, and oral comments will be accepted.  We strongly encourage you to submit comments electronically.  Those wishing to provide electronic comments should use the Forest Service online comment system available at:

https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public/CommentInput?project=46228.  Comments may be typed into the online form, or uploaded as an attachment in Microsoft Word, rich text format (rtf), or portable document format (PDF) only. 

Comments may also be submitted in writing.  Written comments should be sent or delivered to Slater Turner, District Ranger, Lookout Mountain Ranger District, 3106 NE 3rd Street, Prineville, OR 97754.  Written comments may only be hand-delivered or faxed by appointment at this time, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and Executive Order by Governor Brown. Please call Beth Peer at 541-416-6463 to make an appointment to hand-deliver your objection or request the fax number.

Anyone wishing to obtain additional information on the project or to provide comments over the phone should contact one of the project leaders:  Beth Peer (beth.peer@usda.gov, 541-416-6463) or Tory Kurtz (541-416-6407, tory.kurtz@usda.gov).   

Sincerely,


/s/ Slater R. Turner

Slater R. Turner
District Ranger

Submitting Comments

If you wish to submit a comment, please send it to:

Tory Kurtz
Lookout Mountain Ranger District
3160 NE 3rd Street P.O. Box 490, Prineville, OR, 97754
tory.kurtz@usda.gov