Wild Horse Education

States (SJR3 and the power cycle)

We are getting a lot of emails about SJR3, a Resolution being voted on the NV State Legislature Tuesday, the 23rd of March. In the past, the state assembly or legislature of NV has even tried to pass “Resolutions” that changed the legal definition of all free-roaming horses in the sate to “feral.” Under state water law, the idea was that would have denied any free-roaming horse water. However, the state does not have the power to change federal law and the definitions provided by federal law for public lands. (that resolution was one of the reasons we added “even when wild horses drink water it causes controversy” to the video above)

Many advocates that have recently joined advocacy for wild horses and burros have not seen these types of legislative pushes by states over the last 4 years. However, you need to understand that these are part of the regular cycle of the politics of public lands.

The NV Legislature introduces these types of “Resolutions” about wild horses on a regular basis. Note this is a “Resolution” and not a bill that would change the actual law in the state. This is a formality that would define, officially, the interaction of the state and federal governments. In other words, how the state will push federal legislators to vote.

States do not have jurisdiction over federal lands. Many states in the western US were formed by giving up much of the land base to gain federal benefits. States like NV, the most arid state in the nation, was built on the “boom and bust” of the mining industry and a heavily subsidized livestock industry to feed those miners and settlers.

Those disproportionate federal livestock subsidies exist today to keep the industry (livestock) alive. The livestock industry grabbed much of the local political power, that exists today, as the western states were settled.

In the 1970’s several pieces of federal legislation were passed that truly upset those that felt US public lands, and all of the wild things that lived on them, were theirs to do as they pleased. The Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (that stopped mustanging) and the Federal Lands Management and Policy Act (FLPMA), to name a few.

The passage of FLPMA in 1976 gave rise to what is called “The Sage Brush Rebellion.” Below is a pretty good video we found to explain it as simply as possible.

The ‘Sage Brush Rebellion” has been active ever since. Sometimes the movement becomes very obvious to the public (Bunkerville, Grass March, Mahluer Refuge Takeover). Yet, sometimes the movement is quieter when those that support that movement gain seats of power and give them what they want.

In the coming years you will see more states write “resolutions” like the one going to a hearing tomorrow in NV. Many of the new policies, like protecting 30 percent of public lands by 2030 or “30×30,” threaten the political policy stranglehold states and county commissions have enjoyed the last few years.

For the wild horse advocate a simple read (and action item) of this article HERE can give you a glimpse at the tip of the iceberg as men like John Ruhs, Brian Steed, William Perry Pendley and, of course, Ryan Zinke, held the power of sending directives out to federal land management agencies. They also enjoyed the “green wash” that the big corporate lobby groups gave to the movement in the ‘Path Forward,”

You should note that the state actually names that document in SJR3. Path Forward essentially is a document where range management, and things like stocking levels (AML), are traded away in exchange simply for undefined “fertility control.” That document now lives in an official capacity in the BLM Report to Congress of 2020, incorporated by those with the “power of directive.” 

Not only has the agenda of the administration changed, the power of Congress has shifted (where new law is made), so have the people that hold the “power of directive.”  The most obvious change is the confirmation of Debra Haaland to the seat of Secretary of Interior, the most immediate power to change what actually happens on public lands.

YOU are also getting very close to having that report ditched and new directives, that would require actual herd management planning and not the broad brush of simply removal under an archaic plan the counties and states, essentially, controlled. Keep up the good work, you are doing great! Keep educating your federal legislators.

Virginia Range horses are state managed. Wild horses on BLM land are not. The state has no jurisdiction over public lands. The state does not do “helicopter roundups and holding,” they operate under a “complain, remove, send to the sale auction” principle.

Taking a “knee jerk” approach to a resolution like this is not warranted. The state does not have jurisdiction over federal lands. 

What we see when we read SJR3 is a legislature trying to confuse the public, pass an official platform (required) for them to resume pressuring Congress and, frankly, a legislature that is remembering that FLPMA is supposed to provide an equal voice in planning and management to the American public and they are trying to tip that scale again and pretend that equity already exists when it has not for a long time. 

If you want to participate in State Legislative meetings you should reside within that state.

Nevadans can submit a written comment HERE. If you want to participate in the SJR3 hearing in NV you can find information HERE. 

If you want to simply circumvent the state, and address those with actual jurisdiction (where FLPMA and NEPA give you a voice in management, the voice you have been denied for decades), you can use these sample letters and help us push for an actual voice in planning and, finally, gain management planning on a herd-by-herd basis. That planning is required under law and the agency skips it. Land managers skipping actual planning that would outline preservation of the herd and habitat has been allowed to continue, under political poker games and pressure, for far too long. HERE

Before taking any action or participating in any hearing, please read the TEXT of the Resolution HERE. 

A fast look at SJR3 might have you crafting something like one, or more, of the samples below:

  1. This resolution names several planning processes that do not incorporate management planning for wild horses and burros (HMAP). I am engaging my federal legislators, that do have jurisdiction over federal lands, to correct this deficit.
  2. Many of the planning documents you name in your resolution are decades old and the public, that has a right to engage planning under FLPMA, must have the same ability to engage amendments to those plans as mining and livestock and we have been denied the ability to update, amend and gain federal level planning to protect our interest.
  3. This resolution notes AMLs and resource preservation that, it claims, the agency sets in a transparent process. Until BLM openly creates an HMAP that outlines the process for setting AML, resource conservation that preserves each herd, as outlined by law, your resolution is flawed.
  4. Finally, the state has no authority to determine federal policy. The state has the right to engage the process, just as the public does, and this resolution does nothing except demonstrate that the state represents industrial interests over the interests of any Nevadan that wants to see our “wild Nevada” preserved.
  5. I suggest that the state spend more time and resources addressing stabilization of state free-roaming horse populations instead of relying on the public to come up with all the funding for fertility control and diversionary feeding. The state continually advocates for federal funding for reseeding and other projects on BLM land to benefit livestock. The state should address the state funding such undertakings on state land, to demonstrate that any action taken by the state is motivated through any assertion of “the best interest of horses” within the state borders. A resolution such as I just outlined would be a more appropriate use of the legislative timetable funded by Nevadans.
  6. I, as a citizen of this state, urge you to vote no on SJR3.

With your help, we are making real progress educating key people on the deficits in planning, protection and actual management of our wild horses and burros. Population suppression (fertility control and removals) is not management, it is a tool of management that needs to be outlined in an equitable management plan for the specific interest, as outlined by law. In many places the use of temporary fertility control is warranted. But it should only be approved in an actual planning document that offers a transparent process fully engaged by the public and not shoved through in a removal plan. 

In the case of wild horses and burros, the name of that document is the Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP). The HMAP begins with a “scoping” process that allows the public a chance to address everything involved in managing each herd, just like a permittee or mine when they submit a plan to the agency. In an HMAP the AML, forage allocations, critical habitat, genetic preservation, what kind of fertility control with a timetable and more, is determined herd-by-herd. 

As we make progress attempts to confound and push back will get louder.

You will need to get louder. However, make sure your actions are well thought out and appropriate to each part of this process. There is a window to, once and for all, begin to right the federal management of wild horses and burros.

Stay focused. Stay strong. Stay educated. Stay active.

It is going to be a bumpy ride. Onward.


No matter which state you live in, you can take action today HERE


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Categories: Wild Horse Education