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Mule deer on the rise in Spring Creek

SPRING CREEK – An increase in the number of mule deer in residential areas at the foot of the Ruby Mountains is prompting homeowners and the Spring Creek Association to look at ways to reduce property destruction and disappearing vegetation.

The surge in the mule deer population is creating problems for Spring Creek residents, who are watching the animals eat their trees, shrubs and flowerbeds and destroy fencing and other barriers in their yards.

About 20 years ago a mule deer sighting was rare, said Tract 400 resident and association director Paddy Legarza. But over time, it has turned into a year-round invasion, preventing her from planting flowers and forcing her to install electric fencing and wrap her arborvitaes permanently.

“I have more deer as the years go by,” Legarza said. “I am sick of it. I like the wildlife, but I can’t keep anything in my yard and I spend a ton of money on water.”

Neighbor Chris Elegante said he agreed with Legarza’s description and said he was amazed that deer were even willing to eat needles from his Austrian Pine trees.

“I’ve never seen this before,” Elegante said. “But it happened about two winters ago. I had never seen them eat that foliage before. It’s a first for me.”

A resident of Spring Creek since 1987, Elegante said he was in favor of developing a management plan, noting that sightings of deer were very rare as he grew up in the homeowners association.

“It seems like they’re doubling every year,” Elegante said. “My parents struggle. They eat flowers, tomato plants, and the bucks rub their antlers on the trees.”

Tom Donham, eastern region supervising game biologist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife, spoke to the association’s board of directors on Feb. 27 and explained one reason that deer populations are increasing is that herds are not migrating to their traditional summer range.

“This would have been a historic winter range, although it is also a year-round range,” Donham said. “You can talk to any rancher in Elko County and they’ve got resident deer year-round on their properties.”

Other reasons include a lack of natural predators, and hunting prohibited in settled areas, Donham said.

“Not only are there homes on the mule deer habitat, [but] they’ll do what they can do to survive,” Donahm said. “You disallow hunting and natural predators are pushed out of the area, so of course those populations grow even quicker than populations out in the wild.”

Across the country, states such as New Jersey and Oregon are trying to figure out how to handle their exploding white-tailed deer populations. As far as simply relocating the deer to another area, that is not an option for two reasons, Donham said.

“Number one, it doesn’t really work [because] you’ve got to take them a long, long, long way out or they’re just going to come back,” he said. The other reason is an increased risk of chronic wasting disease.”

NDOW does not know how many deer are in Spring Creek currently, Donham said, but setting up a mule deer management plan that involves HOA members tracking and counting deer would be a community-based way to determine how many animals are in the area, what is a manageable rate, and how to keep the population down to that amount.

When a resident asked the board if the association would consider permitting bow hunting on private property, Don Clebano, Tract 400 resident and a former law enforcement officer for NDOW, said there is a state law against shooting a missile on private property.

Clebano also mentioned an opposite problem where homeowners are illegally feeding wildlife, a law NDOW officials are actively enforcing.

“There is a state law against feeding wildlife,” Clebano said, explaining that grain and alfalfa are unhealthy for deer as they do not digest. “They’re feeding them alfalfa and grains. They want them there, they want to see them, but they don’t realize what the problem is ... [which is] their stomachs are full and they are starving to death.”

NDOW will lend any assistance to the HOA as needed, but the agency cannot solve the problem, Donham said. Interest from homeowners will be the first step in finding a solution that is best for residents and mule deer.

“I love seeing this engagement and this is encouraging. This is where it starts,” he said.

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Barrick, Newmont spar over proposed merger

Barrick Gold Corp. is trying to entice large shareholders of Newmont Mining Corp. to support Barrick’s proposed merger with Newmont, but Newmont is still touting its proposed merger with Goldcorp Inc. as the best move for the company.

While the courting of shareholders is ongoing, the next step is up to Newmont’s board of directors, which is evaluating Barrick’s bid and will “in due course respond to that proposal,” Newmont’s group executive for corporate communications, Omar Jabara, said March 1.

Once the board announces its decision, the ball will be in Barrick’s court, he said.

“Shareholders really make the decision. It’s our job to convince the markets,” Barrick Chief Executive Officer Mark Bristow said on March 1. “We’re getting a positive reaction.”

Newmont has talked with shareholders who are puzzled by Barrick’s bid, and they are “not excited about a negative premium,” Jabara said.

Barrick is attempting a $17.8 billion stock deal that would merge the two giant gold producers into a mega company to take advantage of potential cost savings and boost gold reserves and gold production. Newmont, however, is proceeding with the $10 billion plan to acquire Goldcorp.

“The critical mass of the new company will be Nevada,” Bristow said in a telephone interview.

He said Nevada will be a key part of the proposed merger to “increase mine life and improve profits,” and the combination would allow more mining and processing of lower-grade ores that in turn would increase the years of mining gold in Nevada.

“We are very committed to Nevada. Nevada hasn’t taken its correct place in the global mining industry. We think we can do more,” Bristow said.

Joint venture question

Newmont is in favor of a joint venture with Barrick in Nevada, just not a full merger. Jabara said Newmont Chief Executive Officer Gary Goldberg began communicating about a joint venture through emails with Bristow on Dec. 24, even before Barrick’s merger with Randgold Resources was completed on Jan. 1.

He said the emails continued into January, then “it was quiet” until Barrick’s unsolicited bid for Newmont on Feb. 25.

Bristow, who founded Randgold, said joint ventures are complicated “because no one works together,” but a merger would create a company that would “give us the absolute ability to restructure in Nevada,” which would provide more job security for employees and mean more tax revenue for Nevada.

Barrick and Newmont already have a joint venture in Nevada at the Turquoise Ridge Mine in Humboldt County, with Barrick as 75 percent owner and Newmont as 25 percent owner and ore processor for the gold mined at the underground operation.

Newmont has been operating in Nevada more than 50 years and “is anchored in Nevada” as an integral part of the northern Nevada communities, providing jobs, purchasing supplies, hiring contractors and “investing in social and economic development,” Jabara said.

Barrick has the Goldstrike underground and surface operations on the Carlin Trend, surface and underground mines and new discoveries on the Cortez Trend, along with Turquoise Ridge. Newmont has the Twin Creeks Mine near Turquoise Ridge, open pit and underground mines on the Carlin Trend, the Emigrant Mine south of Carlin and the Phoenix copper and gold mine near Battle Mountain.

“We think we can achieve additional value in Nevada with a joint venture, rather than combining” Barrick and Newmont, Jabara said in a phone interview. “It makes more sense rather than a complete takeover.”

Barrick and Newmont also have a 50-50 joint venture at the Kalgoorie Consolidate Gold Mine in Australia. Barrick and Goldcorp have a joint venture in the Dominican Republic now, but that operation would become a Barrick-Newmont joint venture if Newmont and Goldcorp merge.

If the merger with Newmont goes through, Bristow said the plan is to sell all the assets in Australia and focus on the Americas.

Bristow and Goldberg shook hands at a mining investor conference in Florida earlier this week, and Jabara said Goldberg suggested to Bristow that they talk.

Elko mayor’s concerns

Bristow answered questions raised by Elko Mayor Reece Keener that the merger would affect the community because there would be less competition for talent, have a possible impact on suppliers and possibly put downward pressure on wages.

“I think that may well be a concern,” Bristow said, but he countered that there won’t be any less work (for contractors, suppliers and mine employees) with the merger, and there will be more focus on Nevada workers rather than bringing people in from other countries.

“We are engaged with the community. We can always improve,” he said.

Newmont continues to plan for the merger with Goldcorp in the second quarter of this year, with Goldcorp shareholders voting on the proposal April 4. Jabara said Newmont hasn’t set a vote yet, but it should be in early April.

He said Newmont believes the Goldcorp deal is “a lot less of a risk” with 90 percent of mining operations in favorable mining jurisdictions in North and South America and Australia, and the company believes the Barrick proposal is “inferior on many fronts.”

Bristow said the real value would be in a Newmont-Barrick merger, and his proposal calls for Newmont dropping Goldcorp because Goldcorp doesn’t have any top assets.

The Newmont-Goldcorp merger “would mix high-quality, and poor-quality assets. Our responsibility as leaders is to maximize value for shareholders,” he said.

Jabara said the question also arises of whether Barrick’s move against Newmont is to increase value for shareholders “or try to subtract or derail the plan to merge with Goldcorp. We hear from a lot of folks that it’s really more about it potentially being an attempt to disrupt and distract from our combination with Goldcorp.”

Barrick is currently the world’s top gold producer, but Newmont would take the title if the Goldcorp merger goes through. If Barrick and Newmont combine, the new company would be the top gold company by far, with 141 million ounces of gold reserves and 275 million ounces of gold resources.

Barrick’s proposal

According to Bloomberg, Barrick doesn’t plan to increase its offer for Newmont, citing a source who asked not to be identified. Barrick’s offer based on share prices at the time would be a zero-premium deal.

“We made a very good offer,” Bristow said. “It will unlock $7 billion in synergies or $750 million a year.”

He said the combination would be 55 percent Barrick, 45 percent Newmont.

The Barrick proposal is for nearly 2.57 Barrick shares for each Newmont share.

Newmont shares closed March 1 at $33.82, down 30 cents, and Barrick shares closed at $16.35, down 25 cents.

Earlier this week, Bloomberg quoted Bristow as saying he was talking to the biggest shareholders regarding Barrick’s bid for Newmont. Many major Barrick shareholders also own stock in Newmont.

The Financial Times wrote the German fund manager Flossbach von Storch, one of the biggest shareholders in both companies, supports the merger if both parties want the deal.

Bloomberg reported that while larger shareholders are not saying much, smaller shareholders are commenting. David Neuhauser, managing director of Livermore Partners, said he likes the Barrick management team of Executive Chairman John Thorton and Bristow. James Rasteh, founder of Coast Capital LLC, said Newmont has the better managers.


Barrick (red) and Newmont (blue) properties in northern Nevada are shown in this detail from a Barrick presentation titled "Capturing the Missing Billions."

Elko County may become Second Amendment sanctuary

It’s likely that Elko County will soon become a “Second Amendment sanctuary county,” joining the many counties in other states that are making this declaration in defiance of state gun laws.

When Elko County Sheriff Aitor Narvaiza read about Nevada Senate Bill 143, which deals with background checks for gun purchasers, he felt it was a bad bill that is not enforceable. He talked to the county commissioners about taking a stand against the bill, and they were supportive.

At the Feb. 20 Elko County Commission meeting, Narvaiza and the commissioners briefly discussed the sanctuary county idea. Commissioners plan to vote on a resolution to become a Second Amendment sanctuary county at their March 20 meeting, which will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the Nannini Administration Building downtown.

Narvaiza said that judging from the emails he has been receiving, and from the emails the county commissioners have been getting from the people of Elko County, “there should be a very good turnout, and a lot of support.”

He also said he has heard that other counties in Nevada will be expressing their disagreement with SB 143.

“White Pine’s on board, Eureka, Douglas, Lander, and a couple other counties down south are on board for this,” Narvaiza said. “The support has just been overwhelming.”

At the Feb. 25 Elko City Council meeting, Councilman Chip Stone read a letter supporting the county’s Second Amendment sanctuary proposal.

“One of the things I promised while running for Elko City Councilman was that I would back our Second Amendment rights,” Stone wrote in his letter. “I am very much a patriot, love my country, and our wonderful city. I feel that we, as citizens of the City of Elko and Elko County, must support Sheriff Narvaiza in making Elko County a sanctuary county for our Second Amendment rights.

“I would ask everyone to write letters and attend the Elko County commissioners meeting on March 20th, if possible.”

In the past several months many counties and a few cities in other states have passed resolutions saying they are Second Amendment sanctuaries that are not in support of and will not enforce particular gun laws that have been recently passed by their states. At least a dozen counties in the state of Washington, more than half of New Mexico’s 33 counties, and at least two counties in Colorado have passed resolutions.

Nevada’s Senate Bill 143, which was signed by Gov. Steve Sisolak on Feb. 15, is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 2, 2020. Sheriff Narvaiza said it is a bill “that does nothing for anybody. Nothing, nothing whatsoever.” He said all it would do is add an additional burden to honest gun owners.

Advocates of the bill said a major goal of the legislation is to close the “gun show loophole” which allows people to purchase a firearm at a gun show without a background check. Narvaiza said his concern is that the law applies to every private gun sale.

“I do believe if you purchase a gun from a dealer, you should have a background check,” Narvaiza said. “But if I want to sell a firearm to a friend of mine I’ve known for 20 years, I should be able to do that.”

He said that in many situations the law would be difficult to enforce.

“If you and I come to an agreement on a firearm, and I sell you a gun, you give me $500, you go your way and I go my way, and nobody knows a transaction has been done, there’s really no way of checking it,” Narvaiza said.

He explained that under the new law, if two private individuals are working on a gun transaction, they will have to go to a gun dealer and turn in the gun, possibly for several days, and the gun purchaser will pay a fee for the background check. Also, if the gun dealer says the firearm is worth more than the agreed-on sale price, the purchaser will have to pay tax on the amount the dealer says the gun is worth.

Narvaiza commented that judging from the number of applications for concealed carry weapons (CCW) permits which have come in recently, he expects this year’s CCW requests to be up from last year, now that SB 143 has passed. Last year, the sheriff’s department received 942 requests for CCW permits. Under current state law, CCW permit holders are exempt from background check requirements.

Attempts to enact gun background check regulations like SB 143 have been tried before in Nevada, Narvaiza said. Back in 2013, a background check bill was approved by the Legislature but was vetoed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. In 2016, Question 1 was narrowly approved by Nevada voters. That measure was very similar to SB 143, except that Question 1 required the FBI to carry out the background checks. The FBI said it did not want to take on this additional work, and Attorney General Adam Laxalt and a district court judge ended up saying that the measure was not enforceable. SB 143 says that state of Nevada will conduct the background checks.

Narvaiza said if the county commissioners approve a Second Amendment sanctuary resolution on March 20, that will mean that “basically, we won’t enforce Senate Bill 143.”

“We’re going to follow the Constitution, we’re going to follow all the state laws, and gun laws; we’re just not supporting this bill,” he said.

The sheriff said the battle over SB 143 is part of his wider concern about protecting the Second Amendment.

“Our Second Amendment rights right now are being infringed on,” he said. “California’s already seizing guns, other states are seizing guns, we’re just here to make sure that Elko keeps ours.”

“The people of Elko County need to really step up and fight for their gun rights,” Narvaiza told county commissioners at their Feb. 20 meeting.

Commissioners Rex Steninger and Jon Karr both said this week that they have been getting a lot of emails about the sanctuary county proposal, and all of them have been in favor of the idea.

“The sentiment of the emails I’ve received is that the Second Amendment is very important to the Elko County residents,” Steninger said. “And we’ll do everything we can to make sure that we support it.”

He said he is glad to see the sheriff taking such a strong stand.

“I’m proud of him,” Steninger said.

Karr said his main concern with SB 143 it that it is not very well thought out.

“My problem with this is it still wouldn’t have solved the Las Vegas shooting, and that really is what Sisolak ran on,” Karr said.

He said the new law is “truly not that enforceable,” and “you really haven’t solved anything, other than making a nuisance for the legal gun owners.”

Karr said that if people really want to deal with gun issues, he would like to see them take a more scientific approach, and take a close look at what they are trying to solve and how those goals might actually be accomplished.

Some of the counties in other states that discussed Second Amendment sanctuary status have seen huge amounts of public support. The Alamogordo Daily News reported that in Otero County, New Mexico, the county commission held a meeting on Feb. 25 to declare that they are a Second Amendment sanctuary county. More than 500 people showed up, and the commissioners had to move the meeting to the performing arts center across the street. During the public comment period, 21 people got up to speak. All but one were in favor of passing the sanctuary county resolution.

The following day, New Mexico’s Democrat governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, wrote several comments on Twitter criticizing the sanctuary county movement.

“I’m not daunted by obstacles, whether it’s NRA propaganda, rogue sheriffs throwing a childish pity party or bad-faith critics,” Grisham wrote. “Improving background checks and keeping firearms away from domestic abusers will not solve every problem, no. But they have been proven effective, and we will work at #nmleg until firearm safety – which responsible gun-owners in New Mexico recognize as imperative – is achieved.”