Issue: Legislative Committee for Public Lands goes after wild horses
Status: Working Incident
Date: February 11, 2011
In the list of bill drafts for Nevada's 76th (2011) Legislative Session, a rather innocuous and misleading entry appears in relation to Request No. 215 (SJR5). "SJR: Expresses support for rangeland health in Nevada."
(SJR stands for Senate Joint Resolution.)
The premise here seems simple enough. However if one is to actually read the proposed resolution it becomes clear that it has little if anything to do with rangeland health but instead is a frontal assault on BLM and its attempts to modernize its Wild Horse and Burro Program.
The resolution starts out reciting a number of arguments, some factual and some dubious. Then it goes on to attack some of the options that BLM is considering in order to more proactively manage wild horse herds. It also offers no specific plan to actually advance "rangeland health," the purpose of the resolution that was advertised to the public and Legislature.
You can read the actual resolution in a new window by clicking
There are several problems that relate to the convoluted logic expressed by this Committee.
First, Nevada has sadly established a reputation for a lack of scientific integrity when it comes to rangelands and public lands issues. Recently the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) blasted the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners and its Mule Deer Restoration Committee for its lack of scientific understanding or factual basis for bizarre recommendations such as "Dramatic increases in upland AUM (level of permitted grazing) for both cattle and domestic sheep" as a means to restore mule deer habitat, and what we could only consider to be outright lies by claiming that studies done in other states "clearly show that carrying capacity is far larger than most methods of calculation demonstrate."
It is not our intent to debate or refute these and many similar "findings." The WAFWA response speaks for itself and was prepared by a group that is comprised of experts from wildlife agencies of 23 states and Canadian provinces.
You can read the WAFWA comments in a new window by clicking
What appears obvious is an agenda at work that has no interest in actually preserving our ranges and public lands, but is designed to rationalize increased public lands grazing at all costs, whether it be to blame wild horses for livestock damage or to attack BLM when it actually tries to develop some solutions that address horse populations on public lands.
Here is where AOWHA considers such conduct to produce a tragic injustice to Nevada.
- The content of the resolution was grossly misrepresented in the Bill Draft Request List. We have to ask why?
- The resolution is confrontational. It does nothing to materially improve the health of our public rangelands. Those opposed to the resolution's language believe that the application of sound scientific management principles could actually demonstrate that improved management of both domestic livestock and wild horses would be necessary to restore rangeland health. As evidenced in the WAFWA report, the people behind the kind of language that appears in this resolution seem to ignore such facts.
- The Committee suggests that BLM is going to increase horse populations in Nevada. This is nonsense. The horses are already here. However the populations need to be more proactively managed and some fresh ideas being suggested by BLM do involve relocating horses.
- Nevada's economy is significantly driven by tourism and Nevada has the highest unemployment in the country - recorded as 14.6 percent at the end of last year. Assaulting what a large number of potential tourists consider to be American icons can impact tourist destination decisions.
- Some of the individuals involved in the cattle vs. horse debate would have us all believe that any adjustment in horse management on the part of BLM would have the west overrun with horses, a patently false premise.
- Some of the options being considered by the BLM that the Committee broadly opposes would actually bring more cash into Nevada by redirecting funds presently being spent in other states and by bringing private funds to the table.
- Some of the options being considered by the BLM would present opportunities through coordination and other established methods for funds to be spent on range improvement projects.
We understand how people can be skeptical of BLM actually managing for a thriving ecological balance if they were to relocate horses to areas that they determine are more appropriate. However more can be achieved for Nevada with less likelihood of an adverse impact on other important sectors such as tourism if any resolution considered by the Legislature focused on holding BLM's feet to the fire to manage for healthy rangelands rather than by creating a perception among the national population that Nevada is uncooperative and obstructive.
The Nevada State Legislature can either pick fights or work toward sustainable solutions. The State, its citizens, its ranges and its horses would be better served if SJR-5 is given a hasty burial and Nevada's legislators focus on solving the State's problems rather than to create new ones.
Most people would agree that BLM could do a better job managing our public lands and horse herds. We need to stay focused on that objective. Reminding BLM that it has an obligation to manage for multiple uses and a thriving ecological balance is appropriate. Creating some new confrontation among the stakeholders is foolhardy.
Please note: This resolution contains language that originated from the Legislative Committee on Public Lands. It may not necessarily represent the views of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources or the Nevada State Legislature as a whole. The following list of SCPL members was screen captured from the State Archives that appears to represent the members responsible for this resolution.
You can view the Committee's web page in a new window by clicking
UPDATE: Resolution passed the Committee, now moves to the State Senate.
An opinion expressed by a well respected political reporter is that the Democrats caved in to Republican State Senator and anti-horse lightning rod Dean Rhoads in exchange for support of a state budget bill. So the Dems may have sold out our wild horses and put Nevada's tourism industry at risk in hopes of an easier time during budget sessions.
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