Wild mustangs on the job in Wallowa-Whitman National Forest

Eleven wild mustangs have arrived in northeast Oregon from Nevada to assist summer trails crews working in Hells Canyon and the Eagle Cap Wilderness on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

The horses came from Carson City, Nevada, as part of the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program. Both the BLM and Forest Service are required to follow the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, which provides for the management of unbranded and unclaimed horses on public lands. That partnership allowed the mustangs to transfer from one agency to the other at no cost to taxpayers.

John Hollenbeak, trails coordinator on the Wallowa-Whitman forest, said the horses will be used as pack animals to bring in tools and equipment during routine trail maintenance. They could also be used to pack out firefighting gear in the event of another active wildfire season.

“It’s impressive how well they act,” Hollenbeak said. “This stock has particularly good training. I have a lot of confidence in them.”

Usually, a three-person trails crew will be accompanied by at least riding animals, and three pack animals, depending on the job. “We have been struggling with having enough horses to keep a couple (trails) crews going,” he said. “We just didn’t have enough stock.” By partnering with the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program, Hollenbeak said it is a win-win situation for both agencies.

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