Nevada Livestock Trespass in Wild Horse Area
(EUREKA,NV) For the last four years Wild Horse Education has been active documenting our western rangeland. In the course of documenting impacts to wild horses within Bureau of Land Management (BLM) jurisdiction from drought, we encountered areas where livestock permittees were violating terms of their permits.
In the Fish Creek Herd Management Area (HMA) we documented ongoing violations of permit parameters throughout 2014. Cattle were turned out in areas where livestock were not permitted and/or at times of year outside any permitted use. During drought these impacts were not only detrimental to the overall health of the range but impacted wild horse behavior as tension grew at available water sources. Our documentation showed cattle camped out at water sources and salt blocks placed in these areas for livestock. (please note that wild horses legally occupy only 11% of public land and on average receive less than 16% of the available forage in those areas, the vast majority going to privately owned livestock).
We continued to provide information from our findings to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). We have been assured that they are following appropriate protocol to address the situation.
“If we are to protect the range for all uses then all uses must attempt to comply with current aspects of policy,” said Laura Leigh, founder and President of Wild Horse Education, “In years where wild horses are being scapegoated for every ill known to man, how can any ‘finger pointing’ have any credibility when permittees violate the law?”
An active federal court action against wild horses sits awaiting a ruling for dismissal in Reno. The case was brought by livestock interests through the Nevada Association of Counties (NACO) and the Nevada Farm Bureau. Wild Horse Education’s founder Leigh is an Intervenor in the case.
The “NACO” case is primarily focused on blaming BLM for inappropriate management of wild horses statewide. The suit asks for broad scale removals and even the destruction of wild horses in holding. Only one area is mentioned specifically in the suit, the Diamond Complex, where drought restrictions against livestock caused outrage among private interests and wild horses were blamed. “NACO” claims wild horse are destroying our western rangeland and cites a report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) saying BLM simply undercounts the wild horses.
The NAS study is a broad scale document that does not point to wild horses as a primary factor in range degradation. The report essentially says that BLM has no actual data to define excess wild horses on the range or manage them in any scientific fashion.
“We see the NACO suit as a desperate attempt at a resource grab,” said Leigh, “as drought and pending sage grouse restrictions loom large on the horizon the NACO case simply hits the little guy, wild horses. If livestock is out when it should not be, and we can prove it, how can any attempt to make themselves look ‘good’ be seen as credible? If the livestock industry as a whole can not appear to be ‘law abiding’ in issues involving wild horses how can there be any expectation that they will comply with larger restrictions from sage grouse protection efforts?”
Last week Congressman Mark Amodei (R-NV) spearheaded a successful move to avoid the listing of the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). “We have told them specifically that if they are holding all the private stakeholders to a standard (for habitat preservation) and they are ignoring it themselves,” he said. “The idea is to do the right thing by the resource so it doesn’t get listed,” Amodei said to the Las Vegas Review Journal in a recent article.
“With permittees such as what we have documented ignoring the most basic of restrictions during a severe drought, can there be any credibility given to a plan that requires cooperation from stakeholders to protect the range?” said Leigh.
“The wild horse program does need serious reform,” Leigh continued, “but that reform must be based on data and applied in a equitable fashion under law. The era of scapegoating must end if we are to see healthy wild horse populations exist as intended under law for future generations to enjoy.”
We will continue to monitor our western ranges as wild horses and burros face multiple challenges to their continued protection from impending drought, sage grouse, extraction and livestock.
Wild Horse Education is devoted to gaining protections for America’s wild horses and burros from abuse, slaughter and extinction. Main website: http://WildHorseEducation.org