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Would we want our children or grandchildren to see how America's horses are treated by our public agencies?

Alliance of Wild Horse Advocates'



Issue: Protecting Nevada's Virginia Range wild horses

Priority: CRITICAL

Please note: This is an archive copy of an historic document. To view current events please visit the main War Room Index page.

Situation Report Summary

The Virginia Range herd roams the Virginia and Flowery Ranges and surrounding valleys near the historic mining town of Virginia City. The horses are a mixture of what was originally BLM horses, horses released by locals after the gold rush played out, and a few stray head that managed to join up with the herd and survived in this rugged country. After years of being managed by the respective counties where they were found, the Nevada Department of Agriculture asserted ownership and management of the horses.

From the time the state took over the herd until 2008, the herd was managed primarily through a coalition of non-profit horse groups, called "cooperators," who helped keep horses out of trouble, place horses that had to be removed with adopters, and provided other forms of assistance under the direction of the Department's horse program manager, who was basically a one person division within the Department.

The Nevada State Legislature passed several laws pertaining to the Virginia Range horses, defined as "feral livestock" in the state statutes. As state property, they were to be managed and "disposed" of in accordance with specific procedures outlined in Nevada laws. More than once the Department of Agriculture has seen fit to ignore those laws, in one instance precipitating the largest case of horse abuse in modern California history, the Slick Gardner incident.

Tony Lesperance, a rural thug whose activities against the United States Government in remote northeastern Nevada might now be considered terrorist acts under the Patriot Act, was appointed by Governor Jim Gibbons to head up Nevada's Department of Agriculture. Why the Governor would appoint a lawless miscreant to protect Nevada's food supply was a surprise to many. Unfortunately for the Virginia Range horses, Lesperance had authority over them also.

In April, 2008, Director Lesperance went before the state's Interim Finance Committee and told lawmakers that the horses were starving, the range was devoid of vegetation, and that he needed money from the cash strapped treasury to remove horses as rapidly as possible. Lesperance basically took the money and ran. Some speculate that the pitch was a ruse to get funds to cover some unpaid bills that the Department had run up.

Since then, there has been an ongoing battle between Lesperance and the various wild horse groups, with the wild horse groups levying various charges and Lesperance denying them.

The allegations include extortion, grand larceny, malfeasance, false statements, false certificates, and oppression under color of office. Most recently when one of the wild horse groups wanted to review public records to get a handle on what was going on at the Department, the response from the Department's counsel was that they were no longer available and apparently disposed of. In Nevada such records are required to be kept a minimum of six years from the time the documents "expired," so it looks like a new allegation will surface with respect to Director Lesperance's conduct.

Wild horse advocates generally agree that since Governor Gibbons seems to have little concern over the doings at the Department of Agriculture, the problem won't be fixed until Lesperance is formally charged and heads off to jail.

This all may sound over the top, but remember that this is the same state where a former mob lawyer turned Las Vegas Mayor is trying to use Federal stimulus money to build a Mafia Museum.

Recent Developments

Supporting Information


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