Fire in wild horse country sparked by chopping down juniper trees

Saw Spark Identified as Cause of Dodge Fire in the Twin Peaks HMA

SUSANVILLE, Calif. -Investigators have determined that a spark from a tree harvesting saw was the cause of the Dodge Fire that has burned about 11,000 acres of sagebrush, grass and juniper trees in a remote part of Lassen County, Calif.

The Bureau of Land Management determined that the spinning blade in a “feller-buncher” machine caused a spark, setting fire to dry grass. Workers were unable to quell the flames with available tools and equipment, and the fire spread quickly into tall sagebrush and junipers.

“We are examining all the evidence and information we have to determine whether there was any negligence,” said BLM Northern California District Manager Nancy Haug. “The contractor has been very cooperative in this investigation, and was a big help during the initial stages of the fire.” The BLM will issue a final report in the next several weeks.

The contractor was removing juniper trees as part of project to reduce the density of the tree stand, improving sage-steppe habitat important for wildlife, including the greater sage-grouse.

The fire started Monday, Aug. 3. Driven by wind and drought stressed fuels, it spread quickly. The blaze was 20 percent contained today, with full containment estimated for Aug. 11.

From a BLM press release

Flyover reveals low wild horse and burro population in California

Craig Downer and Jesica Johnston’s Twin Peaks Flight Report

An independent aerial survey was completed over northeastern California and northwestern Nevada for the Twin Peaks Wild Horse and Burro Herd Management Area on December 22, 2014. The objective was to estimate the population of wild horses (Equus caballus) and burros (Equus asinus) and to monitor the habitat recovery from the Rush Fire, which burned 315,577 acres in August 2012. The flight and pilot were arranged and made possible through LightHawk.

During the aerial survey a total of 62 horses and 11 burros were counted along the 174 miles of transect strips flown within the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area boundary. In addition, several groups of approximately 90 trespass cattle grazing on public land were documented in the no grazing restricted area from the 2012 Rush Fire. These were found in the south-western section of the Twin Peaks Grazing Allotment #00701 in the Skedaddle mountain range.

Using the aerial strip transect method, the survey estimated the populations of wild horses and burros in the Twin Peaks Wild Horse and Burro Herd Management Area as follows:
(a) 447-593 wild horses (including some mules)
(b) 101-120 wild burros

Follow this link to read the full report: Twin Peaks Flight Report

Appeal to stop the wild horse wipe out

© Cynthia Smalley


Dear Friends of wild horses and burros,

Despite the fact that the National Academy of Sciences stated there is “no evidence of overpopulation”, a group with alleged funding related conflict of interest is pushing the sterilizant known as PZP on an uninformed public using the ‘it’s either slaughter or PZP’ scare tactic.

Today’s drug pitch is found in the Huffington Post:  It references population control experiments on the less than 48,000 acre Assateague Island in the East and lacks scientific comparison with the vast open range found in the West–where some herd management areas cover 800,000 acres or more.

Why did the coalition of several groups give up the fight for wild horses’ real freedom?

Freedom is the American mustangs’ right according to the Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971. They should not be manipulated by man on the range nor in congressional back rooms. Native wild horses should never be domesticated through sterilizants with man choosing who breeds. That’s nature’s job in the wild. It fosters survival of the fittest.

The solution to the fertility control debate is to focus on what the wild herds need to thrive in freedom not what a campaign, driven by a sanctuary or the BLM, wants to achieve. We need good science to find solutions.

The BLM wants to eliminate the majority of wild herds to free up public land for toxic drilling so why is this coalition following BLM’s lead to push population control before science?

There is no accurate population count to justify roundups. BLM’s overpopulation claims are a farce.

What’s the solution for a falsified overpopulation problem?  A reality check and good science.

Fearing extinction from excessive roundups since the 2009 public land grab for energy exports, America’s wild horse birthrate in the West is abnormally high. That should be a red flag that there is something seriously wrong with ecology on their native range.

The Chainman Shale deposit of oil and natural gas in northeastern Nevada and into Utah is about to boom. Exploration began around 2009 in tandem with vast roundups removing the majority of wild horses who have the legal right to be on public land. Some went to probable slaughter and others make up the 50,000 captives warehoused in long-term holding facilities at taxpayer expense.

America’s wild horses should live wild and free–not drugged up with “restricted use pesticides” passed by the EPA for pest control and unsafe for domestic horses.

We invite the public and elected officials to demand a 10 year moratorium on roundups for recovery and studies to develop good science for management. Wild horses are an essential part of the thriving natural ecological balance. They will help reverse desertification and reduce global warming by filling their niche on their native range.

Please sign and share the petition for a 10 year moratorium on roundups for recovery and scientific studies:

Contact us if you want to keep America’s herds wild and free. Our email is  We need your help in various ways.

Remember the herds are the lifeblood of our native wild horses. Due to underpopulation their genetic viability is in crisis today. American wild horses must be protected from experimentation and from domestication so they can always run wild and free.

Many blessings,

Anne Novak
Executive Director for Protect Mustangs™

Links of interest:

Chainman Shale:

One of the many pesticide fact sheets:

Are wild horses going to be sterilized due to an advocacy campaign?

Washington Post reports: U.S. looking for ideas to help manage overpopulation

The Horse and Burro as Positively Contributing Returned Natives in North America:

Press Release: No proof of overpopulation, no need for native wild horse fertility control

Bogus Science and Profiteering Stampeding Their Way into Wild Horse Country

Protect Mustangs speaks out against the Cloud Foundation’s PARTNERSHIP with BLM using risky PZP that could terminate natural selection:

Wildlife Ecologist, Craig Downer, speaks out against using PZP in the Pryors:

Report unveils wild horse underpopulation on 800,000 acre Twin Peaks range:
Protect Mustangs educates, protects and preserves native and wild horses. The nonprofit conservation group strives for a moratorium on roundups and science-based holistic land management to reduce global warming.


Report unveils wild horse underpopulation on 800,000 acre Twin Peaks range

Northern California/Nevada Border Twin Peaks Wild Horse and Burro Herd Management Area Aerial Population Survey November 26th 2013


Craig C. Downer, Wildlife Ecologist

Jesica Johnston, Environmental Scientist

Catherine Scott, Photo Journalist

Abstract from the report:   An independent aerial survey was completed over northeastern California and northwestern Nevada for the Twin Peaks Wild Horse and Burro Herd Management Area on November 26th 2013. The objective was to estimate the population of wild horses (Equus caballus) and burros (Equus asinus) and to monitor the habitat recovery from the Rush Fire, which burned 315,577 acres in August 2012. The flight and pilot were arranged through the LightHawk organization.

During the aerial survey a total of 44 horses and 36 burros were counted along the 207 miles of transect strips within the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area boundary.

Using an aerial strip transect method, the survey estimates the populations of wild horses and burros in the Twin Peaks Wild Horse and Burro Herd Management Area as follows:

(a) 351-459 wild horses (includes some mules)

(b) 230-287 wild burros

Over 300 photographs and continuous video footage were taken during the flight. Photos were taken by Craig Downer, Jesica Johnston and Catherine Scott, and video footage was courtesy of pilot Ney Grant. All this was made possible due to the coordination and support from LightHawk.

See the video flyover here:

Click here to read the full report

Click here to see the photos

Craig Downer is a member of the Protect Mustangs Advisory Board.

Where are all the wild horses?

PM Anne TP Sept 2013


How many are left in freedom? 50,000 are stockpiled in government holding facilities. We call for a moratorium on roundups for population studies. This is urgent!

A big thank you to Cindy A. Lee of Wags and Menace Make a Difference Program Foundation for sponsoring our trip! We are so grateful that Cindy A Lee realizes how important scientific field research is to protect America’s heritage–America’s wild horses.

Judge hears arguments on controversial proposal to roundup wild horses

Wild mustang weanling in holding. (Photos © Anne Novak, all rights reserved.)

Wild mustang weanling in holding. (Photos © Anne Novak, all rights reserved.)

By Sarah Favot,

PASADENA — Wildlife activists packed a federal appeals court hearing Thursday afternoon to oppose the roundup of wild horses, which were recognized by the 1971 Congress as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.”

“It’s cruelty,” said Patty Shenker of Tarzana, who has rescued five horses. “I want to see wild animals stay in the wild and enjoy it.”

In a 2010 lawsuit, In Defense of Animals alleges the Bureau of Land Management violated the Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and the National Environmental Policy Act when it planned to round up about 2,300 wild horses and burrows in 2010 on the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area, which consists of about 800,000 acres in Northeastern California and Northwest Nevada. About 180 wild horses and burros were to be released back into the wild. The remaining horses were transported to BLM facilities for adoption, sale or long-term holding in private facilities, under what In Defense of Animals describes as “zoo-like” conditions.

While In Defense of Animals filed an injunction to stop the roundup, the motion was denied and the roundup went forward.

A total of 1,799 horses and burros were gathered and 59 were returned to the range. Fifteen animals died, according to BLM’s website.

In November, a U.S. district court judge ruled in favor of BLM and the U.S. Department of Interior saying the roundup did not violate the NEPA or WFRHBA.

In Defense of Animals appealed and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments for about one hour Thursday afternoon.

The Act, approved by Congress in 1971, allows the Department of Interior to manage the population of wild horses if the natural ecological balance of the land is threatened.

The wildlife advocacy organization’s attorney Rachel Fazio said BLM did not adequately prove wild horses solely threatened the ecological balance at Twin Peaks.

“In this situation, that benchmark was not established by BLM before they proceeded to round up 80 percent of the animals on this range,” said Fazio.

Mark R. Haag, BLM’s attorney, argued BLM had established the number of horses on the range exceeded the appropriate management level. He said areas of the range were trampled, vegetation was lost and cultural artifacts were damaged due to erosion.

“My problem here is I thought the purpose was to achieve a thriving natural ecological balance and that the appropriate management level determination was just a tool to get to that thriving natural ecological balance, but it seems to me the agency disregarded that,” said Judge Johnnie B. Rawlinson.

Jack Carone, communications and campaigns director for In Defense of Animals, said if the court rules in their favor, he hopes other parties would question other BLM roundups.

Apache Running-Hawk Daklugie, who grew up on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico, described the sacred relationship between wild horses and Native Americans.

“They’re brothers and sisters to us,” he said. “We painted and fought with them. We went to war with them and we tamed them.”

Tonya Littlewolf, founder of Wolf Mountain Sanctuary in Lucerne Valley, said during the roundups some horses’ hooves fall off and their legs are broken.

“They can’t speak for themselves so we have to speak for them,” she said.

She was hopeful the case would rule in the activists’ favor.

“I feel it will be a good thing today because God walks with us and these are his creatures,” she said. “He made animals before He made us.”

Comment at the Pasadena Star News

California wild horse range survey ~ after the Twin Peaks fire

Twin Peaks Post Fire Survey

May 18th and 19th 2013


Twin Peaks Wild Horse and Burro Herd Management Area


Three experienced wildlife observers with binoculars: Jesica Johnston, Carrisa Johnston, and Kathy Gregg

91 miles traveled in 11 hours – we drove slowly with many stops to look for animals

1 horse and 8 burros found

Vegetation in burn area in very good condition with many wild flowers, low grasses, a lot of cheat grass and what appears to be some Russian/Siberian crested wheatgrass (non-native).

Many juniper trees burned beyond survival but many were not burned or will survive the fire damage.  Sage areas clearly show the patchwork pattern of the fire, with many areas completely unburned within the Rush Fire perimeter.

Saw some bitterbrush drill seeding along Rye Patch Road.  Very little black burned grass noticeable now compared with last fall immediately following the Rush fire (see Rush fire report ) and now most of the burned area is covered with spring vegetative growth.

Most notable was the lack of any animal trailing that can usually be seen and would have been very obvious with the new carpet of forage – believe this is because #1 no livestock on the public land and #2 very few wild horses and burros left on the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area. Also noticeable was the lack of horse and burro tracks and manure on the HMA.

Other animals observed: one coyote, two golden eagles, vultures, crows/ravens, two rabbits, birds, ducks and geese at Horne Ranch reservoir, 2 deer, ~ 20 antelope, two curlew, small fish in the Robbers Roost pond and some burrowing ground squirrels and pika.

Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were taken by Jesica Johnston and Carrisa Johnston.

[side note: BLM Litchfield Wild horses and burros facility approx. 200-300 animals maximum] Saturday 5/18/2013

Smoke Creek Road

42 miles on HMA – 4 hours

Very few signs of any Wild horses and burros in this area (trailing/tracks/manure)

1 adult brown burro 8 miles east of Hwy 395 and 1 adult dark brown burro 15 miles east of Hwy 395

    Wild Burro- Smoke Creek Road

Wild Burro- Smoke Creek Road

Turned around at Smoke Creek Ranch owned by Bright-Holland Corporation – gate locked with no trespassing signs and 150+ cattle visible and lush green fields all fenced off.

Rye Patch Road

10 miles on HMA – 2 hours

One set of fresh horse tracks on road and few manure piles but not stud pile (mare or only one horse?)  In the past (pre-fire) numerous manure piles and eight horses seen in this area.

We saw one old wild horse stud pile at Spanish Springs trough – new looking barbed wire strewn in pathway (very dangerous for any animal – we moved it)  No recent signs of horse.

Horne Ranch Road

26 miles approximately half in twin Peaks – 2 hours at dusk

Sunday 5/19/2013

Shinn Ranch Road

13 miles– 3 hours

6 Burros (5 adults and 1 yearling) north side of road about ¼ mile east of Highway 395


In our two days of observation we saw very few signs of any wild horses or burros and only saw one dark horse about a mile south of Shinn Ranch Road about 4 miles in from Hwy 395 – it was far off but 99% sure it was a horse in the far canyon and the only wild horse we saw on this trip.

La chasse aux mustangs ~ Hunting mustangs (Twin Peaks 2010)


La chasse aux mustangs

Chaque année, les autorités du Nevada, aux Etats-Unis, organisent de gigantesques captures de mustangs, ces chevaux symboles du Far West. Une fois capturés, ils sont vaccinés, castrés et envoyés dans un autre Etat. Mais pour les écologistes, se cache un autre objectif : l’exploitation du sol riche en gaz naturel.


Hunting mustangs

Each year, Nevada authorities, in the United States, organize gigantic roundups of mustangs, the symbolic horses of the Wild West. Once captured, they are vaccinated, castrated and sent to another state, But for ecologists, another objective is hidden: exploitation of land rich in natural gas.


from:, filmed in 2010. Anne Novak was honored to work with the director and cinematographer on this project–bringing light to the hidden lies.