Monday, 30 September 1996 17:00

LIVING LEGENDS

Written by John Balliette
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(A Pitiful Tale of Waste and Deception)

Nevada's wild horses are descendants of domestic horses that either escaped or someone turned loose. Contrary to popular and misguided belief, wild horses arc not native to Nevada. However, in a fit of divine intervention, our infinitely wise congress declared these feral creatures to be wild. Congress also required the bureaucrats to manage horses as an integral part of the natural system. Here are some interesting tidbits obtained from BLM (Bureau of Land Management) records. From 1973 to 1995, BLM spent over $214.000.000 (yes. million) administering the wild horse and burro program. From 1973 to 1993, BLM spent 58% ($93,500,000) of the wild horse budget on un-adoptable horses housed in feedlots. Most disturbing is BLM's overhead cost rose from 11% in 1985 to 32% in 1995.

Federal expenses at the state level for Wild horses can get bizarre. For example, BLM spent $60,000 in 1990 administering a wild horse program in Alaska! Perhaps BLM employees mistakenly identified moose as horses. It is somewhat comforting to know that BLM quit spending wild horse money in Alaska after 1992.

BLM spending in Nevada is not much better. Our state is home to about 70% of all wild horses and burros in the Nation. However, over the last five years, BLM spent only 20% to 40% of the horse budget in Nevada. Worst of all, the $6,500,000 spent on Nevada's horses in 1995 was about $150,000 more than the government paid to our counties in PILT (payment in lieu of taxes). It is not very comforting that BLM spends more on horses than they spend supporting our counties.

If your hackles are not raised over wasteful federal spending wait until you hear how our state government contributes to this mess. The Nevada Commission for the Preservation of Wildhorses (CPWH) is an entity of state government. CPWH members are appointed by the governor 'and their commission receives all the benefits of a state agency. As such, they are assigned a deputy Attorney General (AG) and more recently our legislature funded a full time habitat biologist for the

horse commission. You guessed it, this biologist is a Nevada Division of Wildlife (NDOW) employee assigned to CPWH. Nevada's wild horse commission has a track record of filing administrative appeals on BLM actions to reduce horse numbers. An NDOW biologist now provides the technical expertise and a deputy AG provides the legal expertise for these appeals. Since CPWH is a state agency and their records are public, WHOA (Wild Horse Organized Assistance; has copied and filed the same appeals. In fact. I have 22 identical letters from WHOA and CPWH concerning protest and appeals of BLM actions to reduce horse numbers. By identical. 1 mean identical right down to the typographical errors. The only difference is the letter head and signatures. It's interesting to note that WHOA's director was also a CPWH Commissioner. In fact, the policy of allowing the executive director of CPWH to enter into these appeals without consulting her commission was passed on a motion seconded by the director of WHOA - the same person who copied and signed the 22 letters of protest and appeal.

The fact that CPWH and WHOA are so closely aligned makes on wonder about the potential for impropriety. Remember, WHOA is a special interest group and CPWH is a state agency that is supposedly representing the citizens of Nevada.

When the same deputy AG represents both NDOW and CPWH ( and in effect WHOA) on BLM appeals, you have to wonder which side the AG is representing. An NDOW employee representing CPWH to protect wild horses that directly compete with wildlife is ludicrous at best.

How are we affected by inept federal and state bureaucracies and their management of our living legends? Numerous ranches have received grazing cuts while horses were not gathered and their numbers continue to increase. Besides cattle reductions, how many deer, sage grouse and chuckars moved out of areas because horses have eaten all the forage and trampled all the springs? The Railroad, Fishcreek and Grass Valley allotments are just such examples.

The horses themselves are also suffering the consequences of inept management. BLM's policy of removing only horses under five years of age has resulted in aging herds. Winters and drought are especially cruel to older horses. In 1993, one deep snow left rotting horse carcasses strewn along Railroad Pass. This years' drought has choked many horses in Southern Nevada and BLM has plans to remove thousands. That is unless some horse groups sue or appeal. The sad part about it is, if you owned the horses that starved or choked you would be chipping rocks at "Greystone U.

by John Balliette

Last modified on Wednesday, 05 May 2010 14:58
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