By 2015, uncontrolled growth of the Beaty Butte herd to about 1500 horses had done tremendous damage to this high desert rangeland. This HMA was always supposed to be limited to no more than 250 wild horses.
For more detail use link below: specifically pages 16-31 for map and photo descriptions https://www.blm.gov/or/districts/lakeview/plans/files/BeatyButte_Gather_DNA_Monitor_Report_082015.pdf
The area contains the largest continuous tract of Sagebrush Focal Area-designated land in Oregon, which is the highest priority for maintaining greater sage-grouse habitat. To aid in the conservation and recovery of the greater sage-grouse, as well as to manage healthy wild horses on healthy public rangelands, the BLM’s goal is to maintain the wild horse herd in the HMA at the appropriate management level of 100-250 animals.
High School art teacher and photographer, Jonne Goeller, and her husband, Steve, have enjoyed camping and photographing the wildlife and wild horses in the Beaty Butte area on and off for almost 30 years.
Visitors to this extremely remote wild mustang Herd Management Area (HMA) and cattle range are few and far between. The Goeller’s took photos of the horses, antelope, sage grouse, and other wildlife with regular cameras as well as with trail cameras placed at the water holes for the last few years. These photos, taken without any political agenda, end up being an important record of how the land and waterholes were impacted by the dramatic increase in wild horse numbers to about 1500 animals in 2015, then how the land and wildlife has recovered since the removal of most of those horses. Of note, the recovery was also aided by a more normal snowpack during the winter of 2016/2017.
Jonne says, “The top of Beaty Butte is 7,918 feet. A lot of the horses are on the flatland. The horses really like the mountain range during the hot part of the summer, but they can be anywhere in the management unit.
What we have seen since 2013 are many defunct springs that don’t work anymore, the troughs are tipped over, and the quality of water for the wildlife isn’t what it could be. During the drought, to get to the water, I saw numerous instances of fences trampled down which were probably pushed down by animals trying to get to water. We hope to see water sources restored by securely fencing them and repairing the troughs and the piping to the troughs. Dozens of springs in the unit look like this. Almost all the springs are on private lands because years ago homesteaders came in and claimed the units with springs. We’ve been going out to eastern Oregon and Beatys Butte area for thirty years. Most of the springs used to be well maintained. Now all the cattle and wildlife have for water is the runoff into reservoirs, natural seeps, and broken, rundown water troughs.”
Pictured one of the few permanent, year round water reservoirs on the Beaty Butte range.