When you are a lawyer, the solution to every problem is a lawsuit.
Gov. Brian Sandoval put out a press release today saying he plans to pursue legal action to force the federal government to fund wild horse population control.
The statement said the Bureau of Land Management is already telling ranchers they may face a reduction in grazing permits due to the overpopulation, meaning there will be major economic impact for the state.
“The BLM has underfunded the wild horse program for years and as a result, the livelihood of our local economies is now being threatened. For too long, Nevada has been forced to compensate for the federal government’s inability to manage these growing populations without the appropriate resources,” the release quotes the governor as saying. “If the Department of the Interior refuses to adequately fund this program, the State will pursue all legal options to protect our local producers and communities.”
In response Attorney General Adam Laxalt sent out a statement saying, “I remain committed to defending our state, counties and local economies from actions by the federal government that endanger our future.”
The governor’s press release notes that the problem is particularly severe in southeast Elko County, where there are more than 5,000 wild horses — 350 percent more than the range can sustain appropriately.
Jim Barbee, director of the Nevada Department of Agriculture was quoted as saying, “Livestock producers could see anywhere from 25 to 100 percent grazing reductions on their allotments. Elko County could see an estimated $1.8 million loss as a result of the decision, negatively impacting jobs and the economy on a local and state level.”
Also today the Las Vegas newspaper has an AP report on public-private efforts near Virginia City to dart horses with a contraceptive. The wild horse lovers call this a commonsense approach that is less expensive than rounding up the horses and putting them in pens for the rest of their lives.
Even though the wild horse law passed in 1971 specifically states, “The Secretary (of Interior) shall cause additional excess wild free roaming horses and burros for which an adoption demand by qualified individuals does not exist to be destroyed in the most humane and cost efficient manner possible,” congressional budgets since 2009 have stipulated that no funds are to used “for the destruction of healthy, unadopted, wild horses and burros …”
Perhaps it is time to think outside the box.
Since wild horses are an invasive species, perhaps Nevada should take a page from Louisiana’s playbook.
When the swamps were being overrun by non-native nutria — basically giant rats — they came up with the idea that they could reduce the population and make a few bucks, too, by convincing Yankees that nutria is a culinary delicacy. If you can convince people to eat crawfish, basically mudbugs, why not nutria?
Nevada could use the slogan: “Not the other red meat, but the really red meat.”