Amy Lueders, Bureau of Land Management Director in Nevada, visited in Pioche last week as part of a recent rural tour, and met with a select group of county leaders, cattlemen, and BLM staff to discuss a variety of issues and listen to their concerns.
County Commissioner Vice-chairman Kevin Phillips said much of the discussion had to do with the ongoing drought in Nevada. However, he said Lincoln County is not really affected by drought conditions as severely as some of the other counties.
He said BLM does not anticipate Lincoln County having any reduction in grazing due to the drought as other parts of the state may be subject to.
“We expressed our thought that Lincoln County does not need to have grazing numbers reduced as the drought is not that significant here,” he said.
“The struggles we have stem mostly from excess horses,” he explained, “and the non-compliance of the Bureau relative to the way, way over the numbers of unmarked horses. The water they drink belongs to somebody and the grazing they are doing belongs to somebody. It’s private property and is an illegal taking and stealing from the people without being given the just compensation the Constitution requires. It’s a polite practice of theft.”
He noted added the group at the meeting concluded if BLM feels they must “tell our cowboys they have to reduce the cow herds because of the drought, you make sure your horses are down to the levels you have published in the Resource Management Plan before you tell the cowboys to take the cows off. That ain’t gonna fly here.”
He further said, “If you use the Caselton Road (SR 320) as a line across the county, south of that there are almost no excess unmarked horses. And north of that there are two management areas that are believed to have as many as 2,000 or more horses, where there are supposed to be only 250 or so. We really don’t know how many there are, maybe three and four times the number we think. But way in excess of what the BLM own management plans call for.”
Lueders told the group her agency has no money to deal with the problem, and have no place to put the excess horses.
Phillips said BLM and Congress wrote the law as to how many unmarked horses are to be allowed on public land, “but now won’t follow their own law placed in the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971.”
He said in years past, the cowboys were allowed to take care of the horses, and kept the numbers down within reason. “They could catch them, trap them, break them, ride them, sell them, etc. That’s how the numbers were controlled.”
Phillips expressed his own frustration, as well of that of other ranchers and cattlemen statewide, that BLM is not doing much at all to enforce their own law to keep horse numbers down.
He said Lueders reported the agency can’t. First, because they don’t have the money for a horse gather, and secondly, because Congress has put a hold on the law in addition to “shutting down every slaughterhouse licensed to process horsemeat, so the horses are turned loose. Nobody wants to adopt much because they can’t afford the hay. So, the numbers are increasing about 25 percent per year with no relief.”
Phillips said if Congress would allow the cowboys operate the way they used to in keeping the horse numbers down it could be done easily, but current laws don’t allow for that. He said he told Lueders, “You’re providing no solutions, so it is no wonder people are getting upset and ticked off.”
He said at the meeting Lueders often responded by saying, “We can’t do that.” To which he replied, “Your own law says you can, and it’s your responsibility. You are breaking your own law. The law allows for selective euthanasia, but they are not doing it.”
Phillips said he has heard the same complaints from other Commissioners he has talked to both in Nevada and other western states. “We’re all having issues with excess horses and it’s going to get to be a bigger deal without BLM coming up with some solutions and meeting their responsibility under the law.”