Skip to main content

See also:

Wild horse water wars on the horizon

Nevada wild horses at the watering hole
Nevada wild horses at the watering hole
carrol abel

Battles over water have plagued the west since the arrival of the first settlers. A modern day water war could possibly descend upon Nevada's wild horses and burros. A draft letter presented to the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners in Reno on saturday calls for federal agencies to remove all wild horses and burros making illegal use of Nevada water. The newly formed Feral Horse Committee presents the argument that they are not deemed to be wildlife by either the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the state of Nevada. Therefore, by Nevada law, the animals have no “ beneficial use designation” for water rights within the state.

The five page letter outlines the committee’s legal reasoning and requests Nevada’s Division of Water Resources to:

  • Notify each federal agency that is harboring free and wild roaming horses and burros that the continued use of water for which there is no designated beneficial use is in violation of Nevada Law
  • Notify each federal agency that the known incidents of FWRHB causing degraded water quality, often complete loss of spring or seep discharge, and interference with the use of that water by Nevada wildlife is in violation of Nevada Law.
  • Instruct the federal agencies to immediately remove any FWRHB that are making unlawful use of Nevada waters.

Water rights and the use of public lands form a complicated issue dating back to the Taylor Grazing Act signed into law by President Roosevelt in 1934. The Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971 added equines to the mix. Various Public Land acts, both state and federal, also have their say and Nevada Revised Statutes come into play with this particular issue. If these are not confusing enough, add to it all the layers of Nevada government. The Feral Horse Committee is a subcommittee of the Nevada Wildlife Board of Commissioners, a commission within the Nevada Department of Wildlife. It’s no wonder that John Q. Public hasn’t a clue as to what all this means. With Nevada range lands being home to the vast majority of Americas wild horses and burros, the implications are manifold. Whether estray, feral or just plain mustangs and burros, they must have water to survive.

Because of a possible error in procedural rules of order pointed out by wild horse advocates, the Board of Commissioners voted to take no action until their next meeting which is scheduled to take place in Las Vegas February 5th & 6th of next year.

Discussion amongst commissioners prior to the vote appeared to be in favor of approval. Mike Stremler, committee chairman, stated on several occasions that water was BLM’s “Achilles heel”. Commissioner Michael McBeath voiced his disapproval of too many horses on public lands. Commissioner Hank Vogler, also a member of the Feral Horse committee, suggested the Department of Wildlife bring suit against the BLM requiring wild horse populations be kept at appropriate management level, a tactic used successfully by the state of Wyoming.

There has been no public statement defining the purpose of the Feral Horse Committee. Though chairman of the Governors Wildlife Commission, Scott Raine, is reported to have described committee members as “the foremost experts on the issue of feral horses”, their qualifications as such have not been made known.

It should be pointed out that some committee members are proponents of returning to the days of mustanging. Feral horse committee member, George Parman, recently wrote in Scott Raine’s blog site,

“Now, what we need to do, is to let the ranchers and the mustangers take care of the problem, just as they did in the old days...The best of the horses were put on the market for people to use and enjoy [after mustangers rounded them up]. The remainders of the older and less undesirable animals were euthanized via a facility that made good use of the end product.”

There is no doubt the subject of wild horses is a volatile one. From all appearances, America will have to wait at least until February to learn the outcome of yet another attack on their existence.

Comments

  • goldew 4 years ago

    As I write this, Nevada is financially reaping the benefits of the the National Finals Rodeo....of which horses are a major player....This disrespect and callous treatment of horses in Nevada shows how inhumane the government of Nevada is. There needs to be a message sent to these people...that those of us that care about wild horses don't want to participate in any tourism in Nevada....Greed and unscrupulous politicians is what Nevada is about.

  • Profile picture of Suzanne Moore
    Suzanne Moore 4 years ago

    Without the wild horses what possible reason would make one even consider going to Nevada anyway?

  • Peppermint 4 years ago

    Amen! As long as the money flows the fate of the wild horses and burros is toward the slaughter house. BLM needs to remember the land in Nevada was set aside for the wild horses not for grazing cattle. We will rarely eat beef in this home chew on that rancher!

  • Charlotte 4 years ago

    The government & the people of Nevada don't have the power to stop BLM from doing whatever they want to get rid of our wild horses. They are a federal agency, the only one who can put a stop to this is the President. The water issue is just another tatic by BLM to conduct bussiness as usual, Before this BLM said the horses were starving, then proceed to roundup horses & replace them with cattle. The horses are being rounded up in 7 western states including California. So maybe those of us who care & have been fighting for the horses should not participate in any tourism in California, or the other 5 states as well. I agree greed & unscrupulous politicians are what this is all about, I just think it's at a much higher level.

  • Charlotte 4 years ago

    The government & the people of Nevada don't have the power to stop BLM from doing whatever they want to get rid of our wild horses. They are a federal agency, the only one who can put a stop to this is the President. The water issue is just another tatic by BLM to conduct bussiness as usual, Before this BLM said the horses were starving, then proceed to roundup horses & replace them with cattle. The horses are being rounded up in 7 western states including California. So maybe those of us who care & have been fighting for the horses should not participate in any tourism in California, or the other 5 states as well. I agree greed & unscrupulous politicians are what this is all about, I just think it's at a much higher level.

  • Bob Glenn 4 years ago

    What kind of people are running the government agencies in Nevada? They obviously care nothing about the potential eco-tourism potential of our wild horses in their state. And they obviously don't see the beauty of wild horses or their legal right to occupy their designated ranges. These are very scary, unpleasant people.

  • Profile picture of Suzanne Moore
    Suzanne Moore 4 years ago

    Horses are reintroduced NATIVE WILDLIFE. This has been proven conclusively by DNA studies and archeological findings. The ONLY reason these crooks could get away with this is the years of lies against the horses so that NO ONE even bothers to look at the new science findings.

    I don't expect any better from Nevada where we've been supporting public lands ranchers with our tax money for so long now they have decided they OWN the land.

    Got news for you, Nevada. That land does NOT belong to you ranchers and neither do the horses - they belong to US, the tax payers who've been giving you a virtual free ride all these years.

    You've been happy for the BLM to betray the horses so you can have the land that Congress mandated for THEM. Well, what makes you think the BLM will be any more loyal to YOU than they were to the horses?

    With no accountability - which you have been happy with - the BLM can do whatever they want, and those people in the Middle East and China are offering BIG money to turn your state into one giant, toxic open pit mine.

    What goes around, comes around. Wild horse advocates are NOT your enemy.

  • Christine Jubic 4 years ago

    By its own laws,....BLM has a DUTY to SUE for Water Rights Upon Our Public Lands: Here is an excerpt from a lawsuit filed in the case Jubic v. BLM,..2008. ( Dismissed for lack of standing. Merit of issues not addressed)

    BLMs Claim of Insufficient Water

    61. Water sources in arid regions are always “limited.” However, the Ely / Lincoln County Districts of Nevada have the largest water supply in the whole of the state with numerous streams, wells, rivers and cree...ks. Furthermore, there are plans for a great expansion for increased water sources for the entire state of Nevada as is part of the development plans for this area . (See "Ely District Development Plans, ROD Ex.C). See also Notice of Availability of the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Lincoln County Land Act Groundwater Development and Utility Right-of-Way Project, Nevada

    62. Also as a result of the development plans, wildlife areas are being expanded with plans to put water "guzzers" in place so that the wild deer and elk will have water. Plaintiff submits that the defendants have a duty to provide for or allow access to same for our Nation’s wild horse herds. Plaintiff argues that the problem is not a lack of water sources but a lack of water rights. Nevada is a state that claims rights to all the waters and water sources within the state and, in fact, has been involved with much litigation with the BLM on this matter. A great part of the water problems on federal lands is owing to the fact that more grazing permits than ever are being retired. When that happens, the ranchers, who claim the water rights based upon state law “custom and usage,” shut off their "guzzlers" and other water supplies to the lands as they are no longer needed for their cows. As a consequence, the wild horses are forced to travel further in search of water, sometimes crossing invisible jurisdictional lines and getting themselves into trouble and danger of being shot by the ranchers as “strays.”.

    63. There is no doubt that acquiring access to Nevadas waters is a legal, not a geographic problem or based on insufficiencies. Plaintiff submits that despite the difficulties and legalities involved in achieving water rights in Nevada, the BLM nevertheless has a duty to see to it that adequate water is available for the wild horses that roam within their various HMAs. Plaintiff further submits that the defendants have failed in that duty;
    "It is BLM policy to conform with applicable state laws and administrative claims procedures for water rights when managing and administering all BLM programs and projects, except as otherwise specifically mandated by Congress. The State Engineer Office in the Division of Water Resources of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, administers water rights programs in Nevada based on beneficial use and the Doctrine of Prior Appropriation. The State of Nevada regulates its water rights programs using guidance in chapters 533 and 534 of the Nevada Revised Statutes. The BLM will acquire and perfect water rights necessary for public land management purposes according to these state laws and procedures. (Emphasis added.) The BLM also will protect existing water rights of the U.S. by protesting or providing comment during the state permitting process on applications for new water rights or for changes to existing water rights that may interfere with BLM’s ability to utilize such water for public land management purposes."

    "http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/nv/field_offices/ely_field_of... More

  • Wildhorse Anni 4 years ago

    I 'd say we have another small group of ignorant thieving WELFARE CATTLE RANCHERS again attacking Americas Majestic Wild Horses, so they can continue to destroy Americas public lands and water with their WELFARE CATTLE for their own greedy corrupt interests !

  • Starchild Moonbeam 4 years ago

    Horses are native to the Americas just like cheetahs, hyenas, elephants, camels and rhinos. I read a book once where horses spoke just like people...something about Gulliver's Travels, I think.

  • Profile picture of Suzanne Moore
    Suzanne Moore 4 years ago

    Charlotte ~ This isn't even ABOUT the BLM! It's about a local group trying to boot ALL the horses off Nevada land so they can have the water the horses are using. Didn't you READ this paragraph?
    "Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners in Reno on saturday calls for federal agencies to remove all wild horses and burros making illegal use of Nevada water. The newly formed Feral Horse Committee presents the argument that they are not deemed to be wildlife by either the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the state of Nevada. Therefore, by Nevada law, the animals have no “ beneficial use designation” for water rights within the state."

    These are your LOCAL officials, NOT the Feds. Your local officials do everything possible to have the horses removed or just killed. They are WORSE than the Feds. If you want us to come back to Nevada, you've got to do some housecleaning and soon!

  • CJ 3 years ago

    Exactly right Sue. Nevada "wrote the book" on Wild Horse (and Burro) "Management and the BLM adopted it as the National Policy.....they (the Nevada politicians) used Leo Heils Trust Fund Money to INFLUENCE Congress to let them set the policy....

  • Betty Kelly 4 years ago

    Prior to the federal partisan-R take over by Sagebrush rebellion/post passage of the 1971 Act, the budget was about 12 millions dollars for the BLM WH program. These ranchers (sagebrush rebels headed by NV State Senator Dean Rhoads, a BLM permittee, and his rural buddies) tried to squeeze that out as well, hoping that they would be able to take over the management (attack and destroy) of America's wild horses-burros as the State (rural counties, etc) could manage their perceived problems much more efficiently, etc. (Yeah...slaughter). Once cowboy Bush took over, the budget gradually increased for massive irresponsible illegal roundups (on-going). Former NV U.S. congressman Jim Gibbons-R sponsored a committee hearing (invitation only-Dean Rhoads-R, NV John Ensign-R, Tony Lesperance-R, etc.) on 7-13-1998 in Reno for the purpose of repealing/gutting the 1971 WHB Act. Subsequently NV Governor Jim Gibbons (soon to be EX) who was NV U.S. Congressman at one time introduced into the 106th Congress his special interest bill H.R. 2874 to amend the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act to provide for delegation to STATES (i.e. NDA, public lands ranchers/commissioners, etc) of the powers and duties under that Act regarding management of wild free-roaming horses and burros, and for OTHER PURPOSES (?) into the House of Representatives on 9-15-1999. Gibbons' co-conspirator was Hansen of Utah. Then NV State Senator Dina Titus-D went to D.C. and testified against it! Gibbons treated her rudely (his MO toward women). The Bill failed. BUT THEN Nevada wrote their own Wild Horse-Burros Management Plan (Cathy Barcomb was part of this) that was contrary (illegal) to federal law but became the law of the Nevada land to manage WHBs. Then the sagebrush rebels introduced NV S.B. 486 as an amendment to NRS 561.045 to change the NRS language from wild horses to FERAL LIVESTOCK in 2003 (5-5-2003). I testified against this bill to no avail. A done political deal. THUS between the NDA, BLM and the Nevada ranchers, it gave these rogue authorities to illegal power to treat America's wild horses-burros as FERAL LIVESTOCK or even "estrays" and off to auction/slaughter they go!!!! December 2004 Harry Reid/Conrad Burns "rider" that gutted the 1971 Federal Act, etc.

    Over the years, this scam and plot against America's wild horses-burros and take over of OUR public lands as their private lands (and now water) has been well orchestrated and carried out by these corporate greedy thugs...what has and is happening to America's wild horses-burros is ditto as to what is happening to our country now by this same greedy and selfish faction. It’s an ugly and evil story that our WHB have endured. And Obama is doing nothing to help.

    Betty Kelly
    Carson City NV 89704

  • Rose D 4 years ago

    Private welfare ranchers (sucking at the teats of the public) should have no say as to what the people want for these horses. The vast majority of us want there horses to remain on their rightful lands. As far as degrading water quality, take a good look at the bovine in the mirror and get your non-indigenous cattle off our public lands.

  • TerryW 4 years ago

    It's all about money. If it can't be killed for profit they hate it. Land for big game so they can kill them. Land for cattle so they can kill them. They hate not being able to do as they please with wild horses. They also hate the fact that the federal government owns so much land in Nevada, they want that too.

    The BLM doesn't even know how many horses are in Nevada, their own reports show they're already well BELOW AML.

    As it is, wild horses are barely allocated enough forage to survive, the majority going to big game, then cattle. They barely give wild horses anything in this equation. The cattlemen and hunters in Nevada are greedy, if they can't shoot it or slaughter it, in their minds it is worthless and taking away resources from those they can shoot and slaughter. And they wonder why more and more Americans are turning against ranchers and hunters.

    This latest group of wild horse haters should do a little research, the BLM has already proved & stated wild horses are considered wildlife by law. It doesn't matter how many times the word "feral" is used.

    Don't these people have anything better to do with their time than go after federally protected animals? I can't tell you how glad this committee should be that am to not the daughter of any of these people. I would make their lives a living hell. But thankfully I was born to compassionate, caring people who would NEVER be associated with anything like this group. Too bad they've all no doubt brainwashed their poor kids since birth. That northern Nevada gene pool must be pretty small. And the cycle of ignorance and hate continues......