For several years, the ranchers of eastern Nevada have been asked by the Bureau of Land Management to develop a Wilson Creek Allotment Management Plan. Commissioners have decided to amend the language in a letter to be sent to the Bureau of Land Management and the Southern Nevada Water Authority to cite their concerns for the “health, safety and welfare of the citizens,” and stating that the county is really serious about seeing something done regarding land, grazing and water rights, and uses by those agencies in Lincoln County, as well as other counties similarly affected.
The issue was a major point on the agenda at the March 21 meeting.
Basically, the letter is telling BLM and SNWA agencies to get something done on these ongoing questions, or the county will take all civil and criminal legal actions necessary.
Connie Simkins said in some cases families have been waiting more than 60 years for a resolution to their problems, “and it’s time to make a backbone decision. The BLM needs to finish this, and if they don’t we’ll do something.”
Commission chair Kevin Phillips said in his opinion, the BLM in allowing the wild horse population to continue to grow out of control and overuse the land and forage is in effect “stealing” from the commercial cattle and grazing operations.
He asked, “What’s the difference from taking a bale of hay off someone’s property that’s tied up with wire from the forage out there that is on someone’s private property right the grass, water, etc. that the wild horses are destroying? It’s being stolen by those horses that don’t belong to me. It’s a criminal act, and if we don’t stand up and try to reverse some of this, we can kiss it goodbye.
The peoples in the east do not have even the slightest clue of the tyranny being perpetrated in the west by the federal agencies.”
Varlin Higbee noted the laws are not being followed as written in the federal Taylor Grazing Act of 1934.
He said the act, (over 65 million acres in all the western states except Washington), established grazing allotments within certain defined and recognized boundaries. “The boundaries are not what BLM says they are today, they are what was established by Congress in that act.”
The Taylor Grazing Act, signed by President Roosevelt, was intended to “stop injury to the public grazing lands [ex-
cluding Alaska] by preventing overgrazing and soil deterioration; to provide for their orderly use, improvement, and development; [and] to stabilize the livestock industry dependent upon the public range”
But now, according to Higbee, SNWA is allowing sheep, leased for grazing on the ranches SNWA bought some years ago in Spring Valley and other places, to graze wherever they want, without paying attention to the, albeit invisible, boundaries. The problem he noted, is that unlike cattle that graze a wide area unattended, sheep have to be herded, meaning they are driven across the land without regard to what boundaries might be crossed, and taking forage away from other animals, including cattle. “Cattle are different, because you control them according to where you water them.”
“What is happening,” he said, “is the sheep are consuming forage on the lower parts of the valley that in reality doesn’t belong to them, and SNWA is turning a blind eye to the problem. As commissioners, we feel this is a private property question. No different than from someone coming and stealing stacks of hay off your land.”
Commissioner Paul Donohue said he thought if a couple of the commissioners actually went to an SNWA meeting in Las Vegas and had an item of the board agenda and explain that, “we do have an issue, and you either address it now, or we are going to take all appropriate legal action necessary.” He thought the title of County Commissioner ought to be respected enough to be given a hearing. “We need them to know we are prepared to take action.”
Sheriff Kerry Lee said he also believed the issues with the sheep grazing and wild horse problems might very well fall under criminal guidelines.