Horse Health

Wild horses in Nevada catch a break on more man-made drought

Since I’ve written about the power of Nevada’s one state water engineer in my past articles, I was glad to see that Senior Judge Robert Estes of the Seventh Judicial Court of Nevada declared that the Nevada State Engineer’s decision favoring the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) water grab which was to pipeline water from northern Nevada to Las Vegas was “subjective, unscientific, arbitrary and capricious,’ and ‘unfair to following generations of Nevadans’ and ‘not in the public interest.‘”

Wild horse advocates also need to stay on top of BLM’s approval of “other uses” on public lands that are using more than a fair share of water, especially during “droughts.”  If the BLM claims they need to remove a few wild horses because of “drought,” but then approve other uses that use huge amounts of water, the BLM is mismanaging public lands.  This mismanagement does not create a thriving ecological balance – but instead destroys it.  –  Debbie Coffey

SOURCE:  Great Basin Water Network

News Release            December 11, 2013

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Abby Johnson 775/885-0612  Simeon Herskovits 575-770-3438



Baker, Nevada – A Nevada court today resoundingly rejected the Nevada State Engineer’s allocation of some 84,000 acre feet per year of groundwater in four rural valleys that the Southern Nevada Water Authority planned to pump and pipe to Las Vegas.

In a strong, well-grounded decision, Senior Judge Robert Estes of the Seventh Judicial Court of Nevada declared the State Engineer’s decision “subjective, unscientific, arbitrary and capricious,” and “unfair to following generations of Nevadans” and “not in the public interest.”

Estes’ ruling requires the State Engineer to recalculate and reassess the water available for appropriation from Spring Valley to assure that “the basin will reach equilibrium between discharge and recharge within a reasonable time,” and to “recalculate the appropriations for Cave, Dry Lake, and Delamar Valleys to avoid over appropriations or conflicts with down-gradient, existing water rights.”

The Court also required that the State Engineer add Millard and Juab counties, Utah in the mitigation plans for the groundwater development project because they will be affected by the proposed pumping from Spring Valley.  Estes was highly critical of the project monitoring, management and mitigation plans, finding that the Engineer had, in effect, “relinquished his responsibilities” to SNWA.  Noting the lack of triggers in the plan requiring actions to minimize damages from groundwater drawdown, Estes wrote “if there is insubstantial evidence and it is premature to set triggers and thresholds, it is premature to grant water rights.”

Steve Erickson, Utah Coordinator for the Great Basin Water Network, a lead plaintiff in the case, called the ruling “a huge victory for the families and communities of these rural valleys in Nevada and Utah, and a vindication of our collective efforts to resist a massively misguided and destructive project.”   “This ruling affirms our long-held positions that groundwater withdrawals of this huge scale are not sustainable and can’t be effectively managed or mitigated, will pre-empt existing water rights, and will cause permanent, widespread damage to the environment, the economy, the health, and the quality of life in the Great Basin,” Erickson said.

Abby Johnson, president of the Baker, Nevada-based Network said, “this decision should send a clear message to SNWA and Nevada leaders that this project is doomed to fail and should be cancelled now in order to save Las Vegas ratepayers and Nevada taxpayers billions of wasted dollars.”

23 replies »

  1. Applause for Judge Estes! Deb Coffey, your vigilance on all things WILD HORSE is a gift to us and them. Thanks for your work & insight and thank you, too, RT for keeping the facts out there.


    • Thanks, Terri, for all that YOU do! And, I’d like to thank each and every person who is a voice for our wild horses & burros. They need us.


  2. At last some good news. As there should have been. Just do not “get” why these small communities should have to send water to Vegas! Apparently this judge gets it.
    And Barbara, fracking is a threat all the time. Theres much controversy here (NY) about it.


    • Maggie, I meant fracking is a real threat now to our wild horses with Sec. of Interior Sally Jewell in favor of it on our public lands. I know about fracking. and what it does. Here in KY we’re fighting the Bluegrass pipeline that would transport fracking fluids from PA to the Gulf. A leak would pollute copious amounts of water here with all of our waterways and karst areas as well as land and air. The ads about how safe natural gas are just out right lies. Gas Land l and ll need to be aired nationwide. along with the truth of the” managing for extinction” the DOI/BLM/USFS is doing of our wild horses and burros,. B/P going up.


      • Youre right – fracking is a threat to everything & everyone! Have seen Gas Land I and II – & I agree. The gas & oil drilling – the uranium mining messes – there are so many threats to the horses. And it looks like Sec.Jewell is pretty much just smiling and nodding & going along with the status quo. Hadn’t heard about the Bluegrass pipeline. So the mess that fracking is making in PA is being passed along right down across the country to the Gulf. And they are going to do what with it there?
        Dump it in the Gulf? Ship it to other countries? Either would be par for the course.


    • Daryl, I’d say for now what we can take action on is getting the SAFE Act exposure to elected officials in every state… and also getting S 258 shot down when it comes before the Senate. Those two things would go a longs ways to helping stabilize the situation with our WHBs.


  3. You are right Barbara Warner! There was a big gathering in Johnson County in Southern Illinois today about fracking there. The residents don’t want it at all but the politicians have been paid. I have 3 names but there are more! I’m still digging!


    • Thanks, Tami. I did Water Watch as a volunteer for 8 years and I know how scarce potable water is. BLM is removing our wild horses so fracking can take place .
      Yes, it looks like our politicians have been paid off except for a few. Here the Williams Co. is threatening land owners with eminent domain when they have no right to do so . They are liars IMO.


  4. Thee is three more cosponsors for H.R.1094 which brings the number in the House to 162. But no more that 2 or 3 cosponsoring in the Senate the past six months. Like I have said before there is more than enough to pass H.R.1094 but but not the Senate bill S..541.


  5. they Won’t Be Happy Until They Kill Everything And Everybody In The West. Go Ahead, Watch them Poison the Water With Their Fracking. these Rancher Types Are Killing Everything Anyway. Let Their Cattle And Sheep Die, Let Them Die From Poisoning. Turn The West Into A Total Wasteland.. Go Ahead, Sit Back And Watch It Happen! Yrs, I’m Angry At The Stupidity!


  6. Expose the extremely destructive politics and politicians.!!!! Sally Jewell is as worthless for our lands and animals, as Ken Salazar was! Bravo to all who are working so hard to save our Wild Horses.


  7. I went to the ABC site and left a comment but I checked again and they have removed one comment where I said that anybody that considered horse slaughter humane had lost their humanity along the way somewhere. I had put the website address so the readers could access the that shows what happens to horses once they are in the slaughter plant. That was gone and I had to leave another short one finishing out the website address because half of it was missing from the original comment. I don’t like ABC I think they are a left wing crooked organization. I won’t bother to leave any comments there anymore. They pick and choose what comments are allowed to keep anyone that don’t agree with their agenda out.


    • HoofHugs, could this be one of “scientific reports” that has so maligned our Wild Horses and Burros?
      WEDNESDAY, APRIL 23, 2008
      Symanski ~ 1996
      Dances with Horses: Lessons for the Environmental Fringe is the title of the five page article by Richard Symanski but you won’t get a chance to read it unless you are willing to cough up $75.00 to hear what he’s got to say.

      It’s a scholarly article with members-only access from the Conservation Biology magazine and opens with “When environmental activists disregard or show contempt for the facts and the rules of evidence, their intrusion into environmental issues may be perversely counterproductive”.

      It specifically targets “certain” wild horse advocates for misrepresenting BLMs management and is used as a reference by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in their latest management plans for the wild horses and burros at Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge to denigrate wild horse advocates and their involvement in trying to protect Sheldon’s historical herds.

      Symanski (1996) is cited by USFWS to add credibility to their inflammatory paragraphs describing wild horse advocates as presenting, “misleading information, “misinformation” and “intentionally or not….[that] have included multiple inaccuracies, unfounded assertions, and/or misunderstandings of the ongoing and proposed programs, and their likely effects”.
      Symanski’s article, which attempts to legitimize “some” wild horse and burro advocates as elements of the environmental fringe, was based on his research of the independent census of America’s herds back in the mid-90’s conducted by the Public Lands Resource Council (PLRC) and Dances with Wolves writer Michael Blake.

      The PLRC adamantly maintained that the number of wild horses on public lands was significantly less than what the BLM was reporting and Mr. Blake used their results and a significant portion of his own money to take BLM to court for what he felt was gross mismanagement and malfeasance.

      Presiding over the case was U.S. Federal Court of Appeals Judge Royce Lambreth, a conservative Reagan appointee from Texas who ruled in favor of the BLM but went on to stir some controversy of his own after he was assigned a case handling an Indian trust fund in 1996.

      Based on what he learned in the Indian trust fund case, Judge Lambreth began repeatedly blasting the Department of the Interior and then BLM Director Kathleen Clark.

      He issued a legal opinion in July 2005 that accused the US government of racism and went on to describe the Department of the Interior as, “… a dinosaur- the morally and culturally oblivious hand-me-down of a disgracefully racist and imperialist government that should have been buried a century ago.” (1)

      A panel of judges ruled Texas homeboy Judge Lambreth had “gone too far” and had “lost his objectivity” and consequently voted to remove him from the case in July of 2006.

      And that’s how easy it is.

      Whether you’re a famous Hollywood writer, a Federal Court Judge, or just a group of wild horse advocates that bear witness to what officials are doing, it’s all too easy for the “experts” on the government payroll to declare those that oppose them as merely a “fringe element” that has no credibility or worse still, a perverse “threat” to a taxpayer extorted system they too often believe they own.

      As for Sheldon, USFWS states they are not really sure how many wild horses and burros still remain on the Refuge with estimates ranging from 786 to 1,547. Several attempts to get more information from Refuge managers and BLM have been greeted with silence, which will probably help them further justify advocates lack of understanding on the issues.
      Click Here to view USFWS Final Decision and other documents on the Sheldon wild horse and burro management plans.
      (1) Dances with Horses: Lessons from the Environmental Fringe, Richard Symanski, Conservation Biology, Vol. 10, No. 3 (Jun., 1996) Blackwell Publishing

      (2) D.C. Circuit Boots Judge Royce Lamberth From Indian Case, Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2006


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