Post Cards From Nevada: Wild Horse Problem - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Post Cards From Nevada: Wild Horse Problem

Bill Brown
Channel 2 News

You would think that with nearly 48 million acres of public land in Nevada, there would be plenty of room for wild horses. But, as we learned it's a complicated issue, with everyone taking a side.

Some rural Nevada residents, like Elko native John Collett, say "If the herds get out of control then there won't be mustangs anymore!"

But wild horse advocates, like Deniz Bobol of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign say, "Stop removing them, stop the inhumane treatment, the inhumane roundups."

The Bureau of Land Management estimates about 21,000 wild horses roam the Nevada landscape; herds scattered from corner-to-corner.

The issue of how to manage those herds has been an ongoing fight for years. "We have a fundamental problem - mismanagement problem - with the Interior Department's Wild Horse & Burro Program," says Bobol.

The core of the BLM program is minimizing the impact of the horses on the range, and that comes with plenty of justification.

"The land can sustain only a certain amount," says Bryan Fuell, BLM Field Manager for the Elko District.

"Horses just keep producing and they just keep eating," says Collett.

"If one species has excessive use or causes damage it affects the entire watershed," says Dr. Boyd Spratling, DVM.

But advocates say the horses get the lion's share of the blame for damage to the range - unfairly. "The basic argument has validity. We have limited resources on our ranges. The question is what use of the range can be accurately attributed to which type of animal?" asks wild horse trainer Willis Lamm.

Some say the finger should be pointed toward Nevada's leading agriculture industry. "We see 5, 10, 20 times more resources going to livestock than to wild horses and then the agency scapegoats the horses for the damage on the range," says Bobol.

It's an accusation the BLM denies. "Wild life, wild horses, livestock, mining, recreation, so we don't just look at one, we look at all uses out there," says Bruce Thompson, BLM Wild Horse Specialist.

"We have to come up with a balance that meets all resource needs," says Fuell.

But the fight really heats up over population control. The BLM sets a maximum herd number and rounds-up the excess when the herds get too big.

"There are people that are pushing out there and saying 'no, they'll have some ability to self-regulate and know what population level to stay at.' That's absolutely not true," argues Dr. Spratling.

This fiscal year the BLM plans to remove 4,600 horses from the range. But horse advocates say the roundups do more harm than good. "They're indiscriminately removing horses from the range. That means they're taking the old, the young, the sick, the healthy, everybody," says Bobol.

And then there's the issue of what to do with the horses once they're taken off the range.

Just over 41,000 are in holding facilities right now and that comes at a hefty pricetag for taxpayers. It all adds up to a headache for the BLM, ranchers, advocates and of course, the horses caught in the middle.

"We can get a lot more done when we work together than when we're throwing brick bats at each other," says Lamm.

Certainly a lot of facets to this issue. And people don't just disagree on the nature of the problem -- they disagree on the way to solve it.

Tomorrow we'll explore some of the solutions on the table.

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