Wild Horse Education

Focus: Nevada “Battle”

Newly captured wild horses in holding

Newly captured wild horses in holding

Over the course of the last couple of years tensions in the state of Nevada have continued to rise over public land issues surrounding livestock grazing.

We have written several articles in the past and encourage you to read these two:

Rangeland Under Fire: http://wildhorseeducation.org/2014/02/14/rangeland-under-fire-under-fire-editorial/

Deranged War (or the God complex of public land ranchers): http://wildhorseeducation.org/2014/05/15/deranged-war-or-the-god-complex-of-public-land-ranchers/


Diamond colt after winter roundup 2012/2013

In December the Nevada Association of Counties (NACO) and the Nevada Farm Bureau filed litigation against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to remove and destroy wild horses. In less than 30 days Wild Horse Education, through it’s President Laura Leigh, was on file to Intervene in the case to speak for Nevada’s wild horses. Intervention was granted. Our latest motion in support of dismissing this case was filed just last week.

However that is the simplistic “sound bite” that sits on top of a much larger issue.


Diamond stallion being trucked off the range

The NACO suit began months before it was filed in response to livestock restrictions being issued due to drought. The ONLY specific issue addressed in NACO’s entire challenge to the BLM was the Diamond Complex. In 2012 WHE issued a drought report on the Diamond Complex prior to the removal of wild horses the following winter. The range was seriously overgrazed by domestic livestock, a livestock drift fence literally cuts the entire Complex in half, livestock turn out forces unnatural migration of the wild horse population and even though wild horses were considered “over AML” (the number BLM claims can safely be on the range) were only using a fraction of the forage allotted to them (confirmed by BLM).

Wild Horses were removed that winter and livestock restrictions were either voluntary or administratively administered. However the backlash to restrictions had the county, the Nevada Department of Agriculture, state legislators and the Governor (that even took a helicopter flight to see) up in arms. 


Corta. Only band in the area extensively used by sheep in 2012.

The drought did not abate. Livestock restrictions began in areas where there are no wild horses. Blaming the horse is really a moot point but the livestock industry continues to use their same old song and blame wild horses for every issue under the sun as beef prices soar to record highs. (Please remember that public land ranching accounts for less than 4% of beef utilized in industry and could literally disappear and the price of your hamburger would hardly burp).

One of the most heated of these restrictions is in an allotment that is in the Battle Mountain District, the Argenta. This spurred the cattlemen to begin to engage in demonstrations including what they called the “Grass March.” Here they likened themselves to Ghandi’s “Salt March,” in an incredibly offensive manner, attempting to get the BLM District manager fired for actually doing his job. 

Today the Elko Free Press has published a story about a meeting that U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev had yesterday with the Battle Mountain district manager, Doug Furtado. The article states that Amodei had this meeting because what is happening “could balloon into policy detrimental to grazing.” You can read the article HERE.

At the end of the article it is noted that Amodei is now heading over to the Elko BLM office to address wild horse issues with the District Manager there, Jill Silvey. Claiming that if re-elected wild horse issues would become a priority for his office, “If re-elected in November, Amodei said wild horse management will be a priority issue. The BLM has been hit with criticism for its current policy of gathering up horses from overcrowded areas and, if unadopted, sending the animals to long-term holding facilities, which are also filled to capacity.” (This sounds like NACO support to us. Nevadan’s take note. This is an election year. Make sure that anyone you cast your vote for understands that Nevada is not just about ranching, no matter how loud they get).

Katie Fite, from Western Watersheds Project (WWP), wrote an editorial also published in the Elko Free Press. We have worked with Katie in the past and have the utmost respect for her. As our goal today was to “bring our readers up to speed” on what is happening with policy issues that are becoming intense we asked Katie if we could reprint her editorial. WWP is a great organization (even though they are not wild horse advocates) and her editorial has a “sage grouse” focus (the little bird that may change the face of public land management across the west).

Katie has saved us considerable typing time this morning. 

Rogue ranchers and agitators show need for prompt sage-grouse listing


A group of Battle Mountain public lands ranchers are destroying Priority sage-grouse habitats by openly defying BLM grazing controls. The ranchers are reneging on a Grazing Agreement that they pressured BLM to develop in the first place. BLM staff recommended closing the Argenta allotment Mountain Pasture region in 2014 due to the severe damage caused by cattle grazing during 2013 drought. Damage was amplified by continuing drought and lack of snowpack to replenish stream flows.

The Argenta allotment has long been documented by BLM studies to be seriously degraded by livestock. BLM had long failed to act. Drought brought matters to a head. The Argenta ranchers had signed applications that complied with the BLM closure in early 2014. Then they backed out — emboldened by the Bundy debacle that unfolded in spring.

Working with agitator Grant Gerber and politicians, they resisted grazing controls, publicizing a Grass March, claiming it was like Gandhi’s salt march. It was the opposite. Gandhi marched with poor people over vast distances in sweltering heat to gain access to salt for the public good. Here, the ranchers and politicians are showboating so that an elite clique of highly subsidized cattlemen can continue to maximize exploitation of nearly free “forage” on public lands.

Political pressure was exerted. The ever-weak BLM leadership backed down on the Argenta Mountain Pasture closure. Instead BLM signed a closed door agreement with the ranchers that allowed grazing all over Argenta. However, the agreement promised cattle removal when use limits (Drought Triggers) were reached. The Triggers were violated over a month ago. BLM copiously documented this, and told the ranchers to remove their cattle. Yet hundreds of cattle remain on the allotment in de facto trespass.

The ranchers are again refusing to be held accountable for the damage their herds cause to essential wildlife habitats. Sage-grouse brood habitats are being converted to weedlands through extreme grazing and trampling disturbance. Nesting habitat is severely damaged, priming it for irreversible cheatgrass and other weeds caused by heavy cattle impacts.

This illustrates the hollow promises of public lands ranchers when it comes to sage-grouse protections. Argenta ranchers signed an agreement saying they would remove cattle when use limits were met. They have gone back on their word now for the second time.

Gerber and Nevada ranchers started out 2014 beating up on NDOW for having the temerity to comment that BLM’s sage-grouse EIS benefited grouse more than the state plan. Their purpose was to chill scientific comment on livestock harms. Now they are focused on intimidating the Battle Mountain Manager, Doug Furtado — who is taking steps to rein in the most abusive grazers.

When the day in the not too distant future comes, and continuing sage-grouse population declines across the state’s cow and sheep burned landscapes force the Fish and Wildlife Service to List sage-grouse under the ESA, you’ll have the likes of Argenta ranchers, Gerber, John Carpenter and other politicians who champion public lands ranching’s unrelenting destruction of habitat to thank.

The aim of the big hats, belt buckles and horse riders posing in front of cameras wailing about the federal government is bigger than Argenta. It is to discourage other land managers who contemplate controlling cattle ruination of wildlife habitats. It is also targeted at making the public lands become unmanageable, in support of efforts to turn them over to the state and private interests for plunder.

To comment on this editorial go to the Elko Free Press HERE

At this time the “Grass March” has turned into a “Pony Express” that will now take the petition to oust Furtado to Washington. The BLM guidelines etc are posted very clearly on the BLM website HERE. As wild horse and burro advocates we wish that these types of guidelines were as clearly stated as they are for livestock. Those protesting claim a “lack of transparency” that is an absurdity.

As all of this “hub bub” arises in an area where there are no wild horses. Yet of course we have been looking where there are wild horses. In just one such case we have found livestock permittees in trespass. The current climate appears the ranching community is increasingly ignoring the law, believing they can do as they please on your public land. It becomes very offensive as BLM actually strives for something that actually even resembles “multiple use” and and we have intense push back from those waving our American flag as they trod over the rights of all other uses.

Non-permitted livestock use and salt block in prohibited area

Non-permitted livestock “use” and salt block in prohibited area

We will bring you updates soon. However we feel it is vitally important that YOU contact anyone you may consider voting for (or against) in the coming elections this November and raise your voice. Make it clear what the issues are that YOU want represented. It is time to make it personal and say “I Will Remember In November.”


Wild Horse Education is devoted to gaining protection for wild horses and burros from abuse, slaughter and extinction. 

Categories: Wild Horse Education