Within recent weeks, Lincoln County Commissioners have again sent letters to the Bureau of Land Management expressing their continuing concerns about oil and gas leasing and the removal of excess unmarked horses in the county.
Connie Simkins, coordinator of the Lincoln County Oversight Program, said the latest letter, written by District Attorney Daniel Hooge, about the unmarked horses issue, added the Eagle herd Appropriate Management Level, which lists the appropriate number there to be 100-210.
“However, Simkins told Commissioners at the July 7 meeting, “the February 2014 population estimate is 751, nearly four times as many as is appropriate before this year’s foal crop was counted. Additionally, the Silverking HMA should contain 60-128, but the BLM’s latest count puts that number at 377 head.”
She said eight of the 12 herd areas in Lincoln County listed in the 2008 Resource Management Plan, “now contain at least 518 unmarked horses.”
In talking with three of the major ranchers in the Eagle area, Simkins said the ranchers say the 751 number is at least about 300 short.
Copies of the letter have been sent to Gov. Sandoval, the Nevada Congressional delegation, the Nevada Association of Counties, the state Cattlemen’s Association, state Senator Pete Goicoechea, and Assemblymen James Oscarson and John Ellison.
On a question from Commissioner Paul Donohue of how to get something going instead of just all the talk, Simkins said BLM is “most definitely in a squeeze, both budget wise, and they are very sensitive to the environmental community that doesn’t want anything to happen.”
She said the Nevada BLM head office in Carson City has stated they only have funding to gather about 300 of the unmarked horses this year statewide and nowhere to put them.
Others have said the horses are continuing to be a problem not only to the rangeland in taking the feed and water resources away from livestock and wildlife, but are also further damaging the ecosystem, and the leaders are responsible for managing the land, too.
Simkins said, “If you take every cow off the land for the rest of time, this horse problem would still exist, and they need to take action.” Congress needs to be alerted to the problem and to fund it, and “they need to keep the riders off the spending bills that prohibits unmarked horses from being sold at auction or sent to slaughter houses. The law permits such, but every year Congress is pressured by environmental groups to do nothing,” Simkins noted.
The letter to the BLM regarding oil and gas leasing is requesting to be a cooperating agency. Simkins said, “That brings us the opportunity to sit down with the government agencies as they propose the things they are going to write in the preliminary environmental assessment. It gives us an advanced look and a chance to insert the County’s thoughts into the process.”
Some 406,000 acres have been nominated as proposed areas for oil and gas leases. The bulk of the acreage is in Lincoln County, but a little bit is in Nye and White Pine counties.
A four-mile buffer zone has been suggested by BLM, and agreed to by Lincoln County, Simkin said, “around existing water, existing water rights, existing private property, and the pipeline right of way that has already been granted for the Lincoln County Water District.”