Outdoors

4 years ago, the Soda Fire drove wild mustangs from Idaho ranges. Today, they returned.

BLM releases mustangs into Hardtrigger HMA four years after wildfire

The Bureau of Land Management released mustangs into the Hardtrigger Herd Management Area in Owyhee County, four years after they were collected following the Soda Fire.
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The Bureau of Land Management released mustangs into the Hardtrigger Herd Management Area in Owyhee County, four years after they were collected following the Soda Fire.

Four years ago, the Soda Fire ripped through Owyhee County, burning 280,000 acres of Idaho rangeland and devastating ranchers, livestock and wildlife.

The thousands of acres of scorched land included several Bureau of Land Management parcels designated as territory for wild horses and burros. In the weeks after the fire, the BLM gathered 279 mustangs from the Hardtrigger, Sands Basin and Black Mountain herd management areas.

On Wednesday, more than a dozen of those horses finally returned to the rehabilitated Hardtrigger herd management area.

“We’ve had to wait for the rangeland rehabilitation objectives (to be fulfilled) ... and this spring, we determined it was time, it was ready,” said BLM spokeswoman Heather Tiel-Nelson.

More than 80 of the horses gathered were put up for adoption, and the remaining population split between the three management areas. In all, 45 horses will be returned to Hardtrigger, where there were already 19 horses before Wednesday.

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The Bureau of Land Management released 14 mustangs back into the Hardtrigger Herd Management Area in Owyhee County on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. The horses were gathered there in 2015 after the Soda Fire burned the area. Emily Turner

The BLM released 14 horses — seven mares and seven stallions — Wednesday in front of an audience of about 200 people who traveled miles out into the Owyhee desert to see the animals.

The release drew longtime horse lovers as well as those who’ve never spent much time around them.

Caroline McKinnis, of Boise, said she grew up riding horses.

“I’ve never seen a mustang before,” McKinnis said. “(I’m excited) to watch them run and be back where they’re supposed to be.”

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