Nevada Wild Horse Organization Pushes Back

"Instead of managing our rangeland and resources according to any pretense of science we manage them according to politics."

Published by The Desert Independent on May 31, 2016

By Laura Leigh of Wild Horse Education

RENO, Nevada – Today, on Tuesday, May 31, Wild Horse Education (WHE), a Nevada based wild horse advocacy organization, sent a letter to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Bureau Chief, Dean Bolstad, in the National office asking that they deny a request for funds for large scale removals in the state and instead require the state to immediately implement data collection and aggressive use of temporary fertility control.

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In recent days every political figure from the Nevada Governor’s office to Congressional Representatives have sent letters demanding wild horses be removed, but livestock restrictions from the drought be lifted. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Nevada State Director John Ruhs has asked the National office for emergency funding to complete broad scale removals of wild horses. Rush made that request after writing a letter to livestock permittees claiming they would need to reduce livestock grazing, citing degraded rangeland health due to livestock and wild horses in Elko county, Nevada. No county wide official restrictions or closures to livestock have been implemented since the letter was written.

Over the last four years political figure heads representing Nevada’s livestock interests have repeatedly denied the drought ever existed. These same politicians sent letters, and supported efforts, that repeatedly thwarted any attempt to restrict livestock during the drought. Livestock use of public land was never restricted as it should have been during the last four years due to pressure on the BLM from political figureheads. The same politicians even put pressure on BLM to reduce fines for ranchers that ignored restrictions and ran illegally, or in trespass. Our western rangelands suffered as a consequence.

The historic scapegoat for poor range management has always been the wild horse. Wild horses are a legally designated resource, not a permitted use for profit. The agency has repeatedly failed to make that distinction as they allocate more than 80% of available forage to private profiteers. The “remove and stockpile” management of wild horses to satisfy livestock producers has led to tragic consequence for the wild horse and to our rangeland.

In 2013 the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) failed the BLM Wild Horse and Burro program across the board. The report essentially stated that BLM has not data to justify any decision making process. Additionally the report cited that large scale removals of wild horses increase reproductive rates rendering the program fiscally insolvent. The NAS recommended the use of temporary fertility control and aggressive data collection to appropriately manage wild horses. ZonaStatH, or PZP, has been used on Assateague Island successfully since 1988.

Since 2012 the state of Nevada, and our entire western landscape, has experienced drought. Livestock producers that found themselves subject to restrictions not only applied for government relief but created tension throughout the state that even included threats of violence. The livestock industry on public land has cost the American taxpayer over 1 billion dollars just in the last decade alone according to a study done by the Center for Biological Diversity. The study does not cover the continued cost as health rangeland is fast becoming a myth effecting wild life, wild horses and sage grouse. Congress continues to allow grazing permits to be renewed without rangeland health assessments.

In fiscal 2015 the BLM treated 400 wild horses with the PZP vaccine. In fiscal 2016 the number rose to an expected 496 nationwide. About 25% of all the wild horses treated with the vaccine in 2015 were in an area called Fish Creek in Nevada. Livestock interests filed legal action to stop the release of treated horses. The legal action failed, yet the program was shut down presumably because of politics. The State of Nevada manages more wild horses than all other states combined yet currently has no ongoing fertility control.

Instead of managing our rangeland and resources according to any pretense of science we manage them according to politics,” said Laura Leigh, Founder of WHE, “Nevada is the only state in the West without any ongoing use of a proven fertility control vaccine, PZP. You have to begin to wonder if the volatility is a choice, not an accident.”

Doing the same thing over and over again is the definition of insanity, and the exchange of letters from politicians and BLM figureheads fits that description,” Leigh continued. “This fall we could literally treat thousands of wild horses with fertility control and begin a data base for actual management. We need leadership that can carry us into a better tomorrow, not perpetuate the past.”

BLM wonders why the public does not trust them? Maybe it is because a child could see just how crazy this is.”

"The letter sent by WHE to BLM national accompanies a letter urging BLM to begin to use temporary fertility control to manage wild horses and gather data to manage our rangelands effectively signed by wild horse advocacy groups nationwide."

Nationwide wild horses only legally exist on 12% of public land.

Nevada manages more wild horses than all other states combined. Livestock in Nevada is managed on 45 million acres of public land while wild horses are restricted to 14 million acres.

Kayah Swanson