Horse News

Nevada Gov Sides with Welfare Cows While Trashing Wild Horses

Story by Scott Sonner as published on The Spectrum

Sandoval urges relaxed grazing restrictions as drought wanes

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

RENO, Nev. – Gov. Brian Sandoval is urging the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to reconsider livestock grazing restrictions in northeast Nevada, saying that may now be unwarranted given a wet winter that has drought conditions on the mend.

The Republican governor who recently called for expedited roundups of wild horses in Nevada says the agency’s current management scheme wrongly prioritizes mustangs ahead of ranchers — a matter of much debate for decades in the 10 western states where the mustangs roam from California to Colorado.

Sandoval said widespread precipitation has provided healthy forage and water resources in areas stung by five consecutive years of drought.

“Drought conditions in 2015 were a very different story and decisions based on that timeframe need to be revisited — especially decisions that drastically affect an industry and the livelihoods of many hardworking Nevadans,” he said in a letter last week to BLM Nevada State Director John Ruhs arguing against grazing restrictions anticipated this summer based on last fall’s assessments.

Sandoval said he’s concerned about the growing over-population of horses, “the negative impact they have on our rangeland, and the burden of the proposed solution being solely put upon the livestock industry.”

He said the proposed action “prioritizes wild horse populations above livestock producers.”

Nevada is home to nearly 28,000 wild horses — more than half of the 47,000 estimated in the West. BLM argues the range can sustain less than half that many — about 12,000 in Nevada and 26,000 nationally.

Nevada BLM spokesman Stephen Clutter told The Associated Press that agency officials are conducting tours with grazing permittees to observe on-the-ground conditions and discuss management options and changes for the 2016 season.

Clutter agrees there’s been “significant improvements” in drought conditions over the past year but expressed caution. “The effects of drought are cumulative and it can take several years of good precipitation for vegetation to fully recover,” he said.

At the governor’s wildland fire briefing in Carson City last week, Nevada State Water Engineer Jason King said the 2015-16 winter was good when considering the four years prior.

“I characterize it as an average water year,” King said. “We’re doing much better than we were, but we’re not out of the drought and we shouldn’t forget that.”

Clutter said grazing restrictions are one of the tools the agency has to protect the ecological health of the range, and the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 is just one of many laws that guide BLM.

Under that law, areas where the animals were found in 1971 are to be managed “principally but not necessarily exclusively” for wild horses or burros, Clutter said

Greta Anderson, deputy director of the Idaho-based conservation group the Western Watersheds Project, said it’s clear ranchers have no legal right to graze their livestock on public lands.

“They have the privilege of having the preference to graze when conditions are favorable as determined by the BLM and based on science,” she said. “First in line should be the endangered species like the sage grouse that absolutely need to be relieved of livestock grazing in their range if they are going to recover.”

Anderson said Sandoval’s letter is “indicative of how politicized public lands livestock grazing is — with the industry getting politicians to strong-arm agency decision making.”

“Instead, the governor should be concerned with job creation programs for a sustainable economy,” she said, “and propping up the cowboy culture of the arid West isn’t it.”

15 replies »

  1. Mr. King is right, one year of good rain won’t cure the drought! I don’t understand why they don’t see they are only destroying the land in the long run. Wildlife, and that includes Wild Horses, it’s in their DNA or nature taking care of nature, to maintain the land they need to live. If left alone they populate accordingly to how many to the resources, they don’t need a calculator, or soil tests or expensive studies, they just know. But, because WE are overpopulated, because WE are greedy, and the powers that be can’t get their heads out of their a$$es, science has had the tools to eliminate all of this years ago. Without destructive roundups & torturing our Wild Ones, without lining the pockets of kill buyers, politicians, & welfare ranchers. Use the smart tools we have available before WE have destroyed everything for everybody. Not only in the west but the whole world, everywhere greed & over indulgences has taken hold. Just my opinion, and who am I…nobody…


  2. How can Mr. Sandoval declare the burden rightly considered “only” on the livestock industry, when the BLM (and all the livestock industry subsidies) come from taxpayer’s pockets? Not sure which is worse, complete ignorance or complete manipulation.

    We get the government we deserve, so I urge everyone to vote this year.


  3. The only thing growing out on those barren open lands in Nevada is cheat grass and the cows don’t eat it. But Wild Horses do, even after it dries.


    • Naturally, since cows are not native and belong to an European meadow.

      If these cows were feral animals that somehow colonized Nevada and ate all the other grasses (rather than a human crop intrduced on purpose), they would simply die away.


    • Jeanne, can you post your sources on wild horses eating dried cheatgrass? My understanding is cattle and horses will eat it when it is newly sprouted and green, but not after. Since horses pass viable seeds this would not be good news, even though this invasive plant was first released by human error.


  4. 《“I characterize it as an average water year,” King said. “We’re doing much better than we were, but we’re not out of the drought and we shouldn’t forget that.”》

    Welfare ranchers… they keep clinging to old customs based on dubious economical premises and a false sense of entitlement more proper of medieval times, thinking next year will be better or that just because last one was ‘normal’ the old good times are back to stay.

    Well, let me tell you something dear friend: next year won’t be better and will likely be worse. Good periods will last less while drought ones will last longer, until there is nothing but dust and sand, for the globe is warming and climate changing. This is inevitable and there is very little we can do about it.

    “Everything changes, nothing stands still”. Heraclitus of Ephesus

    Liked by 1 person

  5. When Gov. Sandoval goes overseas, who picks up the tab?

    CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval during his first term in office led several trade missions to far-flung locales – China, South Korea, Mexico and Israel — in an effort to elevate Nevada’s status in global markets, drum up business and provide the state’s anemic economy a booster shot.
    But his trips weren’t financed by state government. Instead, a nonprofit group, formed outside government bureaucracy but under the eye of economic development officials, was footing the bill.
    The nonprofit, Success Nevada, incorporated in the fall of 2012, uses a mailing address for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development in Las Vegas but is not part of state government, the agency’s executive director, Steve Hill, told the Review-Journal.
    State law says elected officials should report gifts from a single person or an organization with an aggregate value of more than $200 on an annual disclosure statement. A guide put out last year by former Secretary of State Ross Miller listed travel, lodging, food or registration expenses as examples of things that should be reported.
    But the law doesn’t provide teeth for enforcement or even a clear definition of what constitutes a “gift.”
    Success Nevada was set up as a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt corporation, with a stated purpose to “solicit and accept donations to support Nevada economic development,” according to papers filed with the secretary of state’s office. The IRS designation applies to business associations such as chambers of commerce or other industry groups.
    Trustees include Richard Bryan, former governor and U.S. senator; Donald Snyder, former UNLV acting president; Philip Satre, former Harrah’s executive and current International Game Technology board chairman; Randy Garcia, CEO of Investment Counsel Co. in Las Vegas; and Barbara Smith Campbell, former chairwoman of the Nevada Tax Commissi


  6. A few excerpts from letter posted on NEVADA WILDLIFE ALLIANCE

    I know something about the status of wildlife in Nevada by virtue of 40 years of attending meetings of the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners, interacting with the Nevada Department of Wildlife, camping and hiking on public lands in Nevada, and traveling the rural areas of our state for decades, I decided to send you actual facts about Nevada’s wildlife. I do this because unsupported allegations of “damage to wildlife by wild horses” are made frequently by sportsmen, ranchers and farmers.
    Here are some actual facts about the status of wildlife in Nevada as of early 2014, and in the face of recurring drought conditions to boot:

    Elk numbers in Nevada are at historic high levels. Nevada has too many elk. No neighboring state wants our elk because they already have too many of their own.
    Bighorn sheep numbers are at historic high levels. Nevada has more bighorn sheep than any state in the country except for Alaska. The Nevada Department of Wildlife is now suggesting that bighorn numbers are exceeding “carrying capacity” and need to be reduced.

    Pronghorns are at historic high levels. Never have there been so many pronghorns in Nevada. They may be reaching “carrying capacity” limits.
    Mule deer numbers have been stable for over a decade. While not at historic high levels, biologists at the Nevada Department of Wildlife believe the current numbers are consistent with the conditions available. No one is suggesting that wild horses are affecting mule deer numbers.

    Waterfowl hunting in this state is limited only by the availability of birds coming down the Pacific Flyway. Drought is the only local factor discussed with respect to waterfowl hunting. Wild horses play no part in the life of the Nevada duck hunter.

    Fur trappers are still free to trap as many animals…from muskrats and beavers, to foxes, to coyotes and bobcats…as they please. Trappers have not been asked to cut back or curtail any of their trapping activities because of wild horse impacts nor have they complained that wild horses are interfering with their activities.

    Fishing opportunities in Nevada are limited only by drought and water conditions. Wild horses have nothing to do with fishing on Lake Mead in Southern Nevada, or with fishing conditions on ponds, lakes and reservoirs in Northern Nevada.

    Birding opportunities in Nevada are unrelated to wild horses. The two Audubon Chapters in Nevada do not cite wild horse activity as a factor of concern in the ability of Nevada birders to enjoy spring and fall migration.

    Rabbit hunters have not complained about a lack of rabbits due to wild horse activity. Neither have they been asked to kill fewer rabbits due to wild horse impacts.

    Reptile collectors, primarily in Southern Nevada, have not appeared at the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners to complain that wild horses are interfering with their ability to collect snakes, lizards and other reptiles.

    Sage grouse hunting still occurs in Nevada. Hunters kill several thousand birds, annually. Sportsmen have not complained that wild horses are interfering with their opportunity to kill sage grouse. Nor have they been asked to curtail or stop sage grouse hunting because of wild horse impacts.

    Upland game hunters still take their bird dogs out to hunt chukkar and quail without any disruption from wild horse activity. No chukkar or quail hunter has, to my knowledge, ever come to the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners and tried to make a case that chukkar are losing out because of wild horses.

    Dove hunting continues to take place in Nevada without any disruption from wild horses.
    Speaking of livestock use, here are facts regarding that aspect of the wild horse issue in Nevada:

    The current “guesstimate” of wild horse numbers in Nevada is between 27,000-30,000 according to the habitat biologist from the Nevada Department of Wildlife who so stated in a presentation this past weekend.

    Roughly 300,000 cattle, and 75,000 domestic sheep use Nevada’s public lands (part of) each year, outnumbering wild horses by about 12:1.

    Cows often outweigh wild horses by several hundred pounds.

    Cows have no natural dispersal mechanism equivalent to the band structure of wild horses. Consequently, cows tend to “settle” into places like water sources, shaded areas, along stream banks, grassy meadows and have no incentive to move around without the intervention of the rancher. Wild horses disperse themselves frequently.

    The structure of the cow’s foot…the cloven hoof is, in my view, more destructive to the all-important thin biomass ground cover between sage brush plants than is the flat pancake-like foot structure of the horse.
    Bottom line…..cows definitely leave foot prints…and a lot more….on the ground on public lands in Nevada.

    Here’s the real story from my point of view. The unsupported allegations about damage to the environment and “wildlife” by wild horses as claimed by ranchers, farmers and sportsmen amount to two things:

    Ranchers and farmers view wild horses as “competition” for their own (subsidized) use of the public lands and wish the animals gone for economic reasons.

    Sportsmen make their claims to show support for the livestock industry so that ranchers won’t limit sportsmen’s access to their private lands and to allow for access to public lands just beyond.
    Or so it seems to me.

    Donald A. Molde

    Liked by 1 person

    • Really enjoyed this letter – attempted to comment, but don’t have “Java”! Anyhow, this was my comment – needed to post it SOMEWHERE!

      “What a novelty! Someone with actual experience & knowledge of what happens on our public lands & what IS happening there! I am an advocate for our wild horses & burros. I am NOT an advocate for the kind of destruction being allowed on our public lands – mainly cattle & sheep & the financial subsidies that help to keep them there! The list of wildlife that is overpopulated (NOT wild horses & burros) but elk-pronghorns & bighorn sheep have become overpopulated by the slaughter of predators – this so that the cattle & sheep are not “damaged”. The manipulation of the herds of horses & burros – in order to accommodate large ranchers & corporations – has prevented the horses & burros from migrating from one pasture to another – roundups are destroying the family bands – and now we have 50 or 60 thousand wild horses in feedlots, of course, costing taxpayers money, when they could be and SHOULD be, back in their herd areas.
      Sorry for rambling on – very GOOD letter”

      Liked by 1 person

  7. From PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility)

    Agency Sage Grouse Review Puts Thumb on Scale to Magnify Wild Horse and Burro Effects

    The method used by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to assess range conditions is seriously skewed toward minimizing impacts from domestic livestock and magnifying those from wild horses and burros, according to an appraisal by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result, the BLM’s approach to range management targets scattered wild horses and burros while ignoring far more numerous cattle.


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