Newspaper column: Judge’s dismisses states’ tax reform challenge

A federal judge in New York made short work of the lawsuit filed by New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland seeking to block one aspect of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed by President Trump in 2017.

The states challenged the law because it capped at $10,000 the amount of state and local taxes (dubbed SALT) that could be deducted from IRS filings. Previously the wealthy in high-tax states could deduct most state and local taxes, meaning the taxpayers in lower-taxed states, such as Nevada, were paying a disproportionate share of federal taxes.

New York, for example, points out in its filings in the lawsuit that prior to the $10,000 cap its taxpayers who itemized deductions claimed an average SALT deduction of nearly $22,000. The other three states estimated their taxpayers in 2018 paid $7.5 billion more to the IRS than they had prior to the cap.

The Democrat-dominated states argued that since the tax law passed without a single Democrat in Congress voting for it and was signed by a Republican president that its true purpose was “to coerce a handful of States with relatively high taxpayer-funded public investments — States that are primarily Democratic leaning — to change their tax policies.”

In his 37-page opinion U.S. District Court Judge J. Paul Oetken dismissed the state’s contention that the tax reform unconstitutionally coerces the sovereign states to lower their taxes. In fact he cited a Supreme Court opinion in the case of South Dakota v. Dole, in which the court said it is permissible for Congress to withhold federal highway funds from states that failed to raise the legal drinking age to 21. Sounds like the definition of coercion.

Judge Oetken wrote, “To be sure, the SALT cap, like any other feature of federal law, makes certain state and local policies more attractive than others as a practical matter. But the bare fact that an otherwise valid federal law necessarily affects the decisional landscape within which states must choose how to exercise their own sovereign authority hardly renders the law an unconstitutional infringement of state power.”

He later wrote that he declined to speculate on Congress’ motives for passing the SALT deduction cap.

“So even if, as the States contend, Congress enacted the SALT cap in order to exert downward pressure on state and local tax rates, such a motive poses no constitutional problem as long as the states remain free ‘not merely in theory but in fact’ to set their own tax policies,” the judge concluded.

While the four high-tax states view the tax reform as coercive, the rest of the states tend to view the SALT cap as rectifying a long-standing inequity.

Nevadans — along with residents of New Hampshire, Florida, Wyoming, Texas, South Dakota and Alaska — used to be able to deduct about 1 percent or less of their adjusted gross income, while those who live in New York, Maryland, D.C. and California could deduct more than 5 percent. Nearly one-third of the additional federal tax dollars generated by the SALT cap comes from Californians and New Yorkers.

Using 2010 statistical data from the IRS, you find Californians who filed for state and local income tax deductions claimed deductions of $10,700 per return. Nevadans who filed for the state and local sales tax deduction claimed only $1,430 per return. Calculated on a per capita basis, Californians claimed $2,116 in federal income tax deductions, while Nevadans claimed only $166 per person for SALT deductions.

“The cap, like any federal tax provision, will affect some taxpayers more than others and, by extension, will affect some states more than others,” Judge Oetken wrote. “But the cap, again like every other feature of the federal Tax Code, is a part of the landscape of federal law within which states make their decisions as to how they will exercise their own sovereign tax powers.”

The tax reform is far more fair to a majority of the states that maintain at least some modicum of tax restraint.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Newspaper column: Casting doubt on climate doomsayers

The apocalypse is nigh.

It must be so. It is in all the papers.

Why even a 16-year-old Swedish scold lectured the delegates to the United Nations recently:

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words and yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!

“For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.”

If some pulpit-pounding preacher were to repeatedly predict the end of the world, only to have the world blithely continue unabated, one would expect his congregation would shrink a bit. Not so with the climate change doomsayers.

Breitbart writer John Nolte recently put together a list of 41 environmental doomsday predictions dating from 1967 through 2014 — everything from an impending ice age to rising oceans obliterating whole nations to an ice-free Arctic to acid rain to killer bees. Of the 41, not a single one has come to pass, but the congregation keeps shouting “Amen!”

“Think about that … the so-called experts are 0-41 with their predictions, but those of us who are skeptical of ‘expert’ prediction number 42, the one that says that if we don’t immediately convert to socialism and allow Alexandria Ocasio-Crazy to control and organize our lives, the planet will become uninhabitable,” Nolte writes. “Why would any sane person listen to someone with a 0-41 record?”

This summer James Taylor, a director and writer at the Heartland Institute, cited the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) own data to argue there has been no atmospheric warming in the continental United States since 2005.

According to Taylor, in 2005 NOAA began recording temperatures at 114 sites spaced across the nation that were far away from urbanization, such as growing airports that tend over time to become greater and greater heat sinks, thus skewing data. Using data from those pristine sites, Taylor says U.S. temperatures are now slightly cooler than they were 14 years ago.

“There is also good reason to believe U.S. temperatures have not warmed at all since the 1930s,” Taylor writes. “Raw temperature readings at the preexisting stations indicate temperatures are the same now as 80 years ago. All of the asserted U.S. warming since 1930 is the product of the controversial adjustments made to the raw data. Skeptics point out that as the American population has grown, so has the artificial warming signal generated by growing cities, more asphalt, more automobiles, and more machinery.”

It’s not just the U.S., Taylor says, noting that globally satellite instruments report that temperatures have risen only 0.15 degrees Celsius since 2005 — less than half the increase predicted by the oft-cited U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

As for those models, industrial chemist Mark Imisides recently penned a piece for Principia Scientific International arguing that it is thermodynamically impossible for carbon dioxide to cause global warming.

“In a nutshell, water takes a lot of energy to heat up, and air doesn’t contain much,” Imisides writes. “In fact, on a volume/volume basis, the ratio of heat capacities is about 3300 to 1. This means that to heat 1 litre of water by 1˚C it would take 3300 litres of air that was 2˚C hotter, or 1 litre of air that was about 3300˚C hotter!”

In an everyday example, he compares this to trying to heat a cold bath by putting a dozen heaters in the room and expecting the water to get warmer.

He further relates that for every ton of water there is only a kilogram of air. To heat the entire ocean by just 1 degree Celsius would require heating the air above it by 4,000 degrees Celsius.

So, there is no warming and, if there were, the culprit wouldn’t be burning fossil fuels anyway. But the apocalypse is nigh and we must act yesterday.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Editorial: Government retiree costs must be reined in

The PERS cost creep continues.

According to TransparentNevada, a website maintained by the Nevada Policy Research Institute, the number of former Nevada government employees drawing pensions in excess of $100,000 a year from the Nevada Public Employees’ Retirement System now exceeds 2,150. In 2013, when pension data were first made available the number was 1,000.

To pay for these lucrative pensions, starting in July the regular PERS members — teachers and other government workers — saw the amount of each paycheck that must be paid into the pension account increase from 28 percent to 29.25 percent. Half of that amount comes from the worker and half from the taxpayers. It is all taxpayer money to begin with.

Police and firefighters, who tend to have shorter careers, now must chip in 42.5 percent of their salaries, up from 40.5 percent. Again, half from the employer.

Despite these increases in contributions, PERS still will have a huge unfunded liability — more than $40 billion if you use generally accepted accounting principles.

According to Robert Fellner, NPRI’s policy director, all of the contribution hikes that have occurred over the past decade have gone towards paying down PERS’ debt rather than covering the pension checks for future retirees. “The debt component is now so large that 45 percent of what Nevada teachers will pay to PERS next year will go towards funding other people’s retirement, rather than their own, future benefit,” Fellner wrote earlier this year.

Fellner calculates the cost of funding other people’s retirement checks will cost the average teacher $7,680 this year.

Efforts to reform PERS over the years have gone nowhere. Perhaps because lawmakers themselves are members of the PERS racket.

The Nevada government worker retirement system, unlike anything found in the private sector, is based on a defined-benefit plan, meaning pensions are calculated as a percentage of the highest pay the worker receives at the end of his or her career times the number of years worked.

PERS benefits have ratcheted up over the decades by virtue of incremental benefit increases, collective bargaining gains, earlier retirement age, allowing the purchase of years of service, padding base pay with add-ons such as callback, standby, holiday, shift differential, extra duty, hazard and longevity pay, and simple compound interest.

According to the American Enterprise Institute, the average Nevada public employee pension is $64,000 a year or $1.3 million in average lifetime benefits, the highest in the nation. Meanwhile, the average Social Security annual benefit is $16,000.

It is long past time that the state change this ever more costly pension program from the defined-benefit plan to a defined-contribution plan, similar to the 401(k) plans used by corporations. The worker and the employer each contribute a set amount of the salary and the money is invested until the worker cashes out.

A bill to do this was introduced in the 2013 legislative session. Though it would have applied to future retirees only, the bill garnered no discussion and no vote was ever taken. It died without a whimper.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Newspaper column: NPRI issues report card on 2019 Legislture

The conservative/libertarian Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) recently published its biennial report card on our state’s legislative session, but, rather than just rate lawmakers on how they voted, this year the report card also delves into issues and lawmaker actions on bills that never even came up for a vote.

For example, the report looks into how and why Assembly Bill 420 — which sought to eliminate in Nevada the practice of civil asset forfeiture by police agencies, often without any criminal conviction of any crime — was buried without even coming up for a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. For years Nevada law enforcement agencies have seized cash, cars and homes suspected of being used in the commission of a crime, such as drug dealing. The agencies then kept the proceeds to spend as part of their budget — a practice the Institute for Justice has dubbed “policing for profit.”

An NPRI representative testified in support of AB420 in March, saying the reform would constitute a major victory for due-process and the rights of property owners. The Assembly then passed the bill by a 34-6 margin, drawing broad bipartisan support.

But like a similar bill in the previous session, the reform effort died in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where two of the committee members are Clark County prosecutors, whose budgets benefit from the seizures — Democrats Nicole Cannizzaro and Melanie Scheible.

“As we write this 2019 Report Card, this episode again reminds us of the swampiness and incestuous nature which characterizes Nevada politics,” the report card states. “Unless the state’s constitutional prohibition on dual servants is finally enforced, Nevadans should expect to see plenty more examples of lawmakers putting the concerns of their government employers over those of the very citizens they claim to represent.”

You see, the Nevada Constitution explicitly prohibits the employees of one branch of government from serving as a lawmaker, too. Article 3, Section 1,  reads: “The powers of the Government of the State of Nevada shall be divided into three separate departments, — the Legislative, — the Executive and the Judicial; and no persons charged with the exercise of powers properly belonging to one of these departments shall exercise any functions, appertaining to either of the others, except in the cases expressly directed or permitted in this constitution.”

The provision has been blatantly ignored for years.

The NPRI report card singled out Cannizzaro as the anti-criminal justice reform lawmaker of 2019. Democratic Assemblyman Steve Yeager, a former Clark County public defender who was the architect of AB420, was tagged the pro-criminal justice reform lawmaker of 2019.

The report also addressed a failed effort to increase government transparency — Senate Bill 287 that would have put some teeth into enforcement of the 1911 Nevada Public Records Act by imposing fines on agencies and government employees who wrongly and in bad faith violate the law by withholding public records — and a successful effort in Senate 224 to deny the public access to pertinent information about government pensioners.

SB287 was backed by a coalition dubbed Right to Know Nevada — which included NPRI, the ACLU, the Nevada Press Association, several newspapers and journalists — but it met huge opposition from government lobbyists. In the end the bill was greatly watered down. No government worker would be subjected to a fine and the maximum fine an agency would have to pay was cut from $250,000 to $1,000.

SB224, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Julia Ratti of Sparks, sought to make the names of those receiving taxpayer-funded government pensions secret. Faced with the fact that Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak has long supported government transparency, the bill eventually was changed to allow the release of the names of pensioners and the amounts paid, but key contextual data was made secret — the retiree’s last employer, years of service credit, retirement date and whether the benefit is a disability or service retirement. The governor signed it into law.

For their efforts NPRI named four state senators pro-transparency lawmakers of 2019 — Democrats David Parks and Melanie Scheible and Republicans Ben Kieckhefer and Ira Hansen. Anti-transparency lawmakers were Ratti and Republican Assemblyman Glen Leavitt.

The report also delves into the issues of collective bargaining for public employees, education and various tax bills. The 48-page report card is posted online at https://www.npri.org/studies/2019-legislative-report-card/

As for how the lawmakers voted, NPRI rated Republican Assemblyman John Ellison of Elko No. 1 with a 92.55 percent score. No Democrat garnered a rating of better than 36 percent.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

 

Editorial: Denial of Second Amendment rights warrants a jury trial

Earlier this month, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled a person charged with misdemeanor domestic battery is entitled to a trial by jury, because the state Legislature in 2017 enacted a law saying someone convicted of such a crime could have their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms denied.

In keeping with a 1993 U.S. Supreme Court decision, our state’s high court had previously held that only those persons charged with a “serious” crime are entitled to a jury trial, which was defined as a crime carrying a sentence of greater than six months. 

The unanimous opinion written by Justice Lidia Stiglich stated the change in state law to prohibit firearms possession by someone convicted of domestic violence effectively increases the “penalty” and makes the crime “serious” rather than “petty.” 

“In our opinion, this new penalty — a prohibition on the right to bear arms as guaranteed by both the United States and Nevada Constitutions — ‘clearly reflect[s] a legislative determination that the offense [of misdemeanor domestic battery] is a serious one,’” Stiglich writes in a case out of Las Vegas.

The ruling concludes, “Given that the Legislature has indicated that the offense of misdemeanor domestic battery is serious, it follows that one facing the charge is entitled to the right to a jury trial.”

Attorney Michael Pariente, who represented appellate Christopher Anderson, told the Las Vegas newspaper, “I applaud the Nevada Supreme Court for unanimously doing the right thing. I think it’s a huge decision. They spoke with one voice, and it’s a good day for people who are charged with misdemeanor domestic violence. It forces the prosecutor to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt to a 12-person jury instead of one single, sitting judge.”

But Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, whose office argued against allowing a jury trial in such cases (See clarification/correction below), put out a statement saying, “The devastating consequences of this decision cannot be overstated. Misdemeanor courts across this state are not equipped for jury trials, and this decision could have a widespread chilling effect on domestic violence victims coming forward. My office is working hand-in-hand with city, county, and federal officials to formulate a response and prevent the domestic violence epidemic in this state from further devastating our communities. The most immediate priority for my office is doing whatever it takes to ensure more people are not killed by their abusers as a result of this decision.”

Frankly, we have to ask: Why did it ever come to this?

The Webster’s definition of “all” is: “the whole amount, quantity, or extent of; every member or individual component of; the whole number or sum of; every.”

You see, Article 3, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution states: “The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury …”

The Sixth Amendment reads: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury …”

The Nevada Constitution says: “The right of trial by Jury shall be secured to all and remain inviolate forever …”

How the U.S. Supreme Court decided “petty” crimes do not warrant a trial by jury is beyond our feeble minds, but in any case the Nevada high court is to be applauded for deciding that the denial of the fundamental right to bear arms constitutes a serious matter and deserves a trial by a jury of one’s peers.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Nevada Supreme Court justices: Seated: Associate Chief Justice Kristina Pickering, Justice Ron D. Parraguirre, Chief Justice Mark Gibbons, Justice James W. Hardesty, Justice Lidia S. Stiglich. Standing: Justice Abbi Silver, Justice Elissa F. Cadish.

 

Clarification/correction

A recent editorial stated that Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford’s office argued against allowing a jury trial in misdemeanor domestic violence cases. The office was not actively involved in the case in which the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that because the Legislature passed a law allowing the denial of Second Amendment rights for persons convicted in such cases that persons thus accused have the right to a jury trial because the charge is now serious rather than petty.

After the ruling, Ford’s office issued a statement in response to a media inquiry about possible victim impact. Only part of the statement appeared in the media. The full statement reads:

“One of the main areas of focus for my office is the protection of constitutional rights. That means all rights – including the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms and the 6th Amendment right to a jury trial. Accordingly, I understand, appreciate, and accept the analysis and decision of the Nevada Supreme Court on the intersection of these constitutional rights in the context of misdemeanor domestic battery charges which, if proven, result in the loss of the right to own firearms. I do not challenge that conclusion and, in fact, embrace it as an example of how sacred all constitutional rights (e.g., voting, reproductive health, etc.) are. That said, it cannot be denied that this new jury requirement will have very real and practical effects on domestic-violence prosecutions. To properly implement this new jury requirement, more resources are immediately needed, such as access to victim advocates, additional prosecutors and defense attorneys, training for laypersons who serve as justices of the peace, and many other needs. In the meantime, the sad fact remains – domestic violence victims are at risk. And our state is already ranked as one of the worst in the country for domestic violence fatalities. While we seek ways to implement this new jury requirement for misdemeanor defendants, my office will continue leveraging its resources and working with city, county, and federal officials to protect Nevada families from domestic violence.”

 

Newspaper column: Trump appeals court nominee looks right for the job

This past Friday President Trump nominated former Nevada Solicitor General Lawrence VanDyke to a seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which handles cases for nine Western states and territories in the Pacific.

As solicitor general, VanDyke served in the office of then-Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt. He also served as solicitor general in Montana and Texas. 

VanDyke earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Montana State University-Bozeman and graduated magna cum laude in 2005 from Harvard Law School, where he was editor of both the Harvard Law Review and Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. He is a member of the conservative Federalist Society and currently is a deputy assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice.

Nevada’s Democratic U.S. Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen immediately issued a statement sharply critical of the nomination.

Lawrence VanDyke

“We’re frustrated the White House is choosing to ignore the bipartisan work undertaken by our offices in concert with Nevada’s legal community to identify and recommend qualified Nevadans for the Ninth Circuit,” said their statement. “The Administration’s decision to put forward this nominee ignores the broad, consensus-based opinion of Nevadans. Instead, the White House has chosen to move forward on their extreme judicial agenda. While we will review the full record of this nominee, we are disappointed that the White House has chosen to nominate a candidate with a concerning record of ideological legal work.”

Only two days before the two senators had announced the formation of what they called “bipartisan judicial commissions to make recommendations for Nevada’s judicial vacancies,” and said, “We are establishing the commissions to encourage this and future administrations to nominate candidates that reflect the diversity and values of the Silver State.”

Republican President Trump paid no heed whatsoever.

Critics of VanDyke quickly jumped on his record in Montana of advancing friend of the court briefs defending bans on same-sex marriage and abortion, as well as challenges to gun rights. 

The voters of both Montana and Nevada had amended their state constitutions to prohibit same-sex marriage, and in 2014 Montana filed a legal brief defending those amendments before the 9th Circuit. Cortez Masto, then Nevada attorney general, refused to defend the state’s amendment. The 9th Circuit eventually ruled both state’s amendments were unconstitutional.

VanDyke was quoted by a Montana newspaper, while running unsuccessfully for a seat on that state’s Supreme Court, “My job was to represent the interests of the people of Montana and defend our state’s laws. So simply because I worked on a specific case or made a specific recommendation obviously can’t be taken as representative of my personal views. In fact, as Montana’s solicitor general, I worked on cases and took positions that were sometimes at odds with my personal or political views.”

While working under Laxalt, VanDyke was said to be a key figure in securing an injunction staying the Environmental Protection Agencies’s 2015 “Waters of the United States” rule, which unduly expanded federal power over every stream, ditch, seasonal puddle and muddy hoof print as being covered by the restrictions of the Clean Water Act of 1972. 

The conservative National Review also notes that VanDyke’s challenge of the Bureau of Land Management’s over-broad greater sage grouse land plan caused the agency to back off. The plan would have withdrawn more than 10 million acres of federal public land from use for such things as grazing and mineral exploration. He also challenged the Obama-era EPA’s Clean Power Plan that threatened to raise power bills.

“VanDyke also litigated in defense of the Second Amendment and religious freedom,” the National Review article continues. “He filed the multi-state amicus briefs at both the circuit and Supreme Court level in the Trinity Lutheran case. He was also part of the successful multi-state challenge to the Obama administration’s DAPA program, which attempted to legalize and grant numerous benefits to over 4 million illegal aliens without statutory authority. As the lead lawyer for a 22-state coalition, he successfully challenged the Obama administration’s Overtime Rule.”

Sounds like the kind of person who could help change the future rulings of the once uber-liberal 9th Circuit.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Editorial: Wild horse overpopulation is dire

Wild horses at puddle. (BLM Nevada pix via E&E News)

We’ve known for years that the wild horse and burro population growth on public land in the West is not sustainable, but little is being done about it.

A recent article in the online E&E News, which touts itself as the essential news source for energy and environment professionals, by Scott Streater paints an eye-opening on-the-ground picture of just how dire the situation is, especially in Nevada.

With a dateline of Eureka County, the piece opens with a glimpse of 100 head of wild horses gathered about a tiny pool of water around which most of the forage has long since been consumed by the sweltering day in July when reporter was given a tour.

“This is just not sustainable,” Ruth Thompson, Bureau of Land Management’s Nevada Wild Horse and Burro Program manager, tells the reporter while looking down into the valley. She explains that the edible grasses have been eaten down to the root, allowing invasive species such as cheatgrass, which is edible only for a brief period in the spring, to takeover and crowd out the native species.

Currently Nevada, according to the BLM, has more than 47,000 wild horses and burros on the range, though it can sustain less than 13,000. Nationally, there are 88,000 wild horses and burros, though the range can sustain less than 27,000. In addition, the BLM warehouses nearly 50,000 wild horses and burros on private pastures and in corrals at a cost of $50 million a year, which consumes most of the $66.7 million budgeted for the management of the wild horses and burros.

Unchecked by roundups or contraceptive measures, the populations of the feral beasts can double in just four years.

As for the cheatgrass supplanting edible forage, the E&E article quotes Dean Bolstad, who retired this past year as division chief of BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program, as saying, “And once you get there, you have lost the habitat for wildlife, and they probably can never be restored to a perennial grassland that provides diverse habitat for wildlife and all kinds of other multiple uses that BLM is responsible for.” That affects native wildlife such as mule deer, antelope and greater sage grouse.

Streater goes on to relate that in the past year BLM removed 11,472 horses from federal rangelands, 5,800 of those were rounded up in “emergency gathers” because of a lack of water or forage, but as many as 18,000 foals were born on the range in that year. A BLM official told the reporter that darting the mares with fertility drugs every year is simply not practical.

The number of wild horses and burros adopted each year has fallen to about 2,500 in recent years, though the BLM is now offering $1,000 incentive payments to those who adopt the animals and maintain certain conditions.

The situation on the range is dire for the horses and burros, as well as for native wildlife and cattle and sheep. Our representatives in Congress need to work toward a solution. And, yes, that solution might have to include what was called for in the original 1971 law protecting these animals: “The Secretary (of the 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,” though Congress has denied funding for euthanasia for years.

That would be better than having the animals starve and die of thirst after protracted suffering.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.