Wild horse classification could conflict with state law

2011-01-29T00:25:00Z Wild horse classification could conflict with state lawJARED DuBACH Staff Writer Elko Daily Free Press
January 29, 2011 12:25 am  • 

ELKO - You can lead a federally protected horse to water, but if you let it drink you could be in violation of Nevada law.

That's if a proposal to the state's water engineer by the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners is adopted.

The draft letter will be reviewed by the commission's Feral Horse Committee when it meets at 1 p.m. Monday at the University of Nevada, Reno Cooperative Extension Office annex in Eureka.

In the letter addressed to Jason King, state engineer with the Division of Water Resources, the wildlife commission asks King to notify of each federal agency that is responsible for overseeing feral horses and burros that continued use of water "of which there is no designated beneficial use" is in violation of state law.

Furthermore, the letter asks King to request that the federal agencies - in this case the Bureau of Land Management - that it needs to remove from the range all feral horses and burros covered under the Wild Horse and Burro Act from areas where they are "making unlawful use of Nevada waters."

Under Nevada law, waters on public lands must be utilized by livestock or wildlife. The commission argues that feral horses and burros are not livestock or wildlife under federal guidelines, therefore the horses are consuming water resources illegally.

According to King, the BLM holds about 28 water permits in Nevada for wildlife use on public lands.

The commission states in the letter that it supports working with water rights owners, but to have vested water rights the resource must have been put to beneficial use of livestock before 1905, according to state law. For claims after 1905, the individual has to justify beneficial use, and file a claim with the state engineer. The commission goes on to list several legal definitions of "livestock" and "wildlife," concluding that feral horses and burros are neither.

The letter pinpoints "neither the Nevada Department of Wildlife, nor the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service claim these animals are wildlife and under their jurisdiction. The waters within most of the Nevada rangeland wildlife habitats that are grazed by domestic animals are owned by the rancher and shared by law and cooperation with Nevada wildlife. The federal government has no law that supersedes the State of Nevada's water law (in accordance with the 10th Amendment)."

The commission cites the federal government's mismanagement of a herd of feral horses that roamed the Nellis Air Force Bombing and Gunnery Range in 1991 in which it is alleged the horses overgrazed nearly 500,000 acres, leading to death by starvation of "hundreds of horses." The commission cites an essay by Cliff Gardner titled "A look at the history of mismanagement of the Nevada mustang" written Feb. 5, 2010. Gardner also describes 13 other cases of supposed mismanagement.

The committee at Monday's meeting will also:

• Discuss possible uses of BLM money generated from grazing fees for wildlife enhancement and conservation projects.

• Discuss a letter to be addressed to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar regarding the establishment of a feral horse sanctuary in Elko County. This agenda was established prior to BLM Director Bob Abbey proclaiming the proposed site in southern Elko County to be unfit for a sanctuary.

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(8) Comments

  1. caligulas
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    caligulas - February 03, 2011 6:54 am
    I fail to see how a horse drinking water is illegal. Common sense has apparently fallen by the wayside these days.
  2. coogercrissie
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    coogercrissie - February 03, 2011 12:29 am
    MORE EFFORT MUST BE MADE BY RANCHERS AND EQUINE PRESERVATIONIST GROUPS!!!! I PERSONALLY HAVE BEEN 'MONITORING' LOCAL BANDS IN THE LYON COUNTY AREA, AND WILL KEEP ALL ABIDING RANCHERS ABREAST OF WATER 'CONDITIONS'...I DRIVE A SEDAN, DONT EVEN OWN A TRUCK, BUT I WILL DO MY BEST TO GET WATER TO THE WILD ONES, IN BUCKETS OR BOTTLES IF I HAVE TO....
  3. coogercrissie
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    coogercrissie - February 03, 2011 12:22 am
    I AM ASHAMED TO BE A NEVADA RESIDENT. AN ILLEGAL CAN ENTER THIS STATE, DRINK ALL THE F R E E CITY WATER THEY CAN, GET FOOD STAMPS, E T C....BUT HORSES, FERAL OR NOT, HAVE A CONTINUAL PRICE ON THEIR HEADS.....GOVERNOR, YOU HAD BETTER FIGURE SOMETHING OUT, AND REVIEW THE 1971 WILD HORSE AND BURRO ACT...OR, CONSIDER CHANGING A L O T OF THE CURRENT SO CALLED PUBLIC AID AVAILABLE IN NEVADA.. NV GIVES FOOD STAMPS TO THESE PEOPLE, HOW DID THEY END UP WITH ALL THE RIGHTS?? EQUINE AID IS BADLY NEEDED!!!
  4. coogercrissie
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    coogercrissie - February 03, 2011 12:13 am
    THIS IS NOT HAPPENING!!!!!! WTF is WRONG WITH THESE 'PEOPLE'???!!! For 'arguments' sake, just how beneficcial is a Sage Grouse? Or for that matter, our 'state animal' the Bighorn Sheep?? Maybe those guys are setting up their own private little stills up there in the hills...You know, catching the dew off of the SAGEBRUSH, so they can bottle up their own drinking water, just to stay low on the radar of the BLM or any other BS establishment wanting to argue this IDIOTIC IDEA. BRAVO TO sporange!
  5. MorganLvr
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    MorganLvr - February 01, 2011 10:55 am
    The Supreme Court ruled in 1976 (Kleppe vs.New Mexico) that “where state laws conflict with the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, or with other legislation passed pursuant to the Property Clause, the law is clear: the state laws must recede … ”
    Despite the ranchers’ state owned water rights, the horses and burros remain federally protected as “components of the public lands” and are entitled to roam free in areas where they were as of the date of the WFRHBA, 1971.
  6. MorganLvr
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    MorganLvr - February 01, 2011 10:54 am
    Regardless of state law to recognize wild horses and burros as wildlife, they are a federally protected species under federal law. According to the 1971 Act, this means ALL unbranded and unclaimed horses and burros. Whether or not Nevada agencies choose to call them wild or feral, they’re still a federally protected species which does constitute “beneficial use” of water.
  7. sporange
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    sporange - January 31, 2011 10:17 am
    "Under Nevada law, waters on public lands must be utilized by livestock or wildlife"
    - Really? I guess all of the mining operations on public land using water for milling need to be shut down.

  8. Nevada Willis
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    Nevada Willis - January 29, 2011 10:00 am
    This is one slippery slope that could wind up with the courts deciding that since public lands grazing is a Federal activity, that the state can adjudicate how much water can be taken but the BLM could determine where and to whom the water goes. Federal Reserved Water Rights trump state laws. An adverse court ruling could have far reaching implications.
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