Big Summit Wild Horse Territory

The Big Summit Wild Horse Territory is located approximately 25 miles east of Prineville, Oregon, and totals about  25,434 acres entirely within the Ochoco National Forest (herd management area map).

It is the only wild horse population in the Pacific Northwest that is managed entirely by the US Forest Service.

Wild horse trio

 

History

The Big Summit Wild Horse Territory was established in 1975 in accordance with the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. This Act requires the Secretary of Agriculture to protect unbranded and unclaimed horses residing on public lands, "to protect and manage wild free-roaming horses and burros as components of the public lands," and to "manage wild free-roaming horses and burros in a manner that is designed to achieve and maintain a thriving natural ecological balance on the public lands."

In 1975, there were approximately 60 horses residing on the Ochoco National Forest within ten different bands. The origins of the herd are not entirely clear. Early accounts describe local ranchers in the 1920s turning loose quality animals from a good breeding stock to ensure a future supply of good horses. In later years, thoroughbred stock may have been released into the area, as well.

 

WH group shot resized

Current Herd Management

The Ochoco National Forest approved a new herd management plan for the Big Summit Wild Horse Territory on May 7, 2021. The Forest worked for several years with multiple stakeholders to update the herd management plan, which now prescribes a range of 47 to 57 wild horses on the Big Summit Territory as an appropriate management level (the 1975 plan called for 55-65 animals). The Ochoco Land and Resource Management Plan was amended to allow for this range to be adjusted when necessary based on conditions in the Territory. The Forest will conduct gathers to remove excess wild horses to reach the appropriate management level (AML) and will use fertility control to reduce population growth. The plan also calls for the monitoring and assessment of the genetic health of the herd and collaborating with experts in the field to increase genetic variability. 

The new management plan includes Comprehensive Animal Welfare Best Management Practices (BMPs). These outline specific practices such as veterinarian care, feeding and watering, and safe handling and transport. The goal is for the horses that are removed from the Territory to be adopted. Once they are removed from the Territory, they would be taken to a holding facility and prepared for adoption. Options for this include utilizing an existing interagency agreement with the BLM, providing off-range care at a Forest Service facility, or establishing maintenance and care agreements with private entities.

Both the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are "multiple-use" agencies, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 requires that the agencies balance wild horse and burro use with other resources, such as livestock and wildlife.
 

You can learn more about the updated management plan but checking out these: 
Wild Horse Plan Frequently Asked Questions

Other Resources

US Forest Service Wild Horses and Burros Program

BLM Wild Horses and Burros Quick Facts
 

For more information, contact Public Affairs Officer Kassidy Kern at kassidy.kern@usda.gov or (541) 416-6647