ELKO - Elko County Commissioners voted to be a cooperating agency as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management considers changing a grazing-allotment use for wild horse activist Madeleine Pickens.
Her Tommy LLC is asking the BLM to renew her Snow Water Lake and Warm Creek permits for those grazing allotments but change the use from livestock to domestic horses.
"We are in the process of collecting information before we do an environmental assessment," Lesli Ellis, Elko BLM's public affairs specialist, said Friday. "This will be a very public and open process like any other EA we do."
Randy Brown, director of natural resources, planning and zoning for the county, told commissioners the Elko County Natural Resources Management Advisory Commission "thought it was important the county be involved" in the permit process.
He said one of the concerns is that horses, which "even if adopted are still wild" will damage springs in the allotment.
"I think it is important. We want to be at the table," said Elko County Commissioner Charlie Myers.
Ellis said Friday was the deadline for providing data and information for preparation of the EA on the Tommy LLC proposal.
"Elko County has asked to be a coordinating agency in the permit renewal process and as such they are planning to submit information but we have yet to receive it. Although our deadline is today, it does not mean we will not accept data or information after that date," she said.
Pickens currently has the two allotments as part of her ranch properties near Wells, where she wants to establish an eco-sanctuary for wild horses.
The grazing permit change would be for domestic horses, which means she will hold title to the horses, Ellis said.
Pickens also has submitted proposals to the BLM for both the private and public-private options for creating an eco-sanctuary for wild horses in partnership with the BLM, Ellis said.
"They are still in the review process," she said.
The BLM asked for proposals for providing long-term pasture for wild horses with the provision that some sort of public access be allowed, along with an education component about wild horses.
Pickens and the Saving America's Mustangs Foundation "are currently developing Mustang Monument: Wild Horse Eco-Preserve, in Nevada, as a permanent home to protect and care for wild horses presently in captivity. The sanctuary and living museum will be a location for the public to visit, learn about, and appreciate the horses and American culture," according to the organization's website.
Pickens rescued Paiute horses earlier this year and brought them to the ranch.
Myers also commented that the government has opened horse slaughter again. Congress had forbid slaughter the past five years but President Obama signed a spending bill that indirectly restores the American horse-slaughter industry.
The agriculture spending bill Obama signed did not include a ban on the inspection of horse meat.
In other action at their Wednesday meeting, Elko County Commissioners:
• Agreed with former Assemblyman John Carpenter of Elko that their planned Wild Land Fire Summit would be best held in September. Carpenter is chairman of the summit.
"Fire concerns many people. It will take time to get everyone together," he said, explaining that waiting until September will allow time to plan for a field trip and gather more research.
"This could easily become a yearly event," said Commissioner Jeff Williams, "if it is done right."
• Approved closing the edges of county roads for the Ruby Mountain Relay planned for Aug. 3-4 from Lamoille Canyon through Spring Creek, the South Fork Indian Reservation, over Harrison Pass to the Ruby Marshes, through Ruby Valley to Starr Valley and into Wells.
Organizer Robert Johnson said he hopes to see runners from California, Idaho and Utah, as well as Nevada.
"They're going to love it," Johnson said, telling commissioners that similar races in the region have been "phenomenally positive."
• Approved first reading of an ordinance raising the limit for the prosecution of a misdemeanor from $250 to $650 for bad checks, possession of stolen property and petit larceny.