Shutdown leaves horses without water

Shutdown leaves horses without water

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ELKO — While Washington politicks over a government shutdown, wild horses on the range could be dying of thirst.

Carlin resident Jackie Wiscombe, who for the past two years has contracted with the Bureau of Land Management to haul water to horses, said she’s been told to stop.

“Due to the government shutdown, these animals are in dire consequences of no water available,” she said. “… They are basically dependent on water being hauled to them.”

Wiscombe had watered an area 15 miles north of Currie and another in Ruby Valley about every five days. She was going to continue hauling water to the horses through the end of November, she said.

On Wednesday, she informed the county commission, saying horses could very well be dying.

Commissioners — who commended Wiscombe for bringing the issue to light — were worried about the horses and frustrated by the apparent lack of contingency planning by those in charge.

“What I’m concerned about is who’s responsible for these kind of management decisions?” Commissioner Demar Dahl said, “where you’d make the decision to start watering these horses, and then we say, ‘OK, now because we’re shut down, quit drinking.’”

Dahl wanted to know how many horses are left without water and dying.

“It doesn’t matter whether you love horses or hate horses,” he said. “It’s just egregious to think that you’re going to put them in a position where they depend on you and then walk away.”

Washed out roads complicated the problem, Wiscombe said. One spot hadn’t been watered for about a month because the road was impassable.

“We could go investigate and find out if they are dying. If they are, the county has a water truck, we can go haul water out there,” Dahl said. The county also has a bulldozer, he added, to level washed out roads.

However, a county water-hauling project would need to be approved as an agenda item, according to County Manager Rob Stokes. If residents decided to haul water with private equipment, though, it wouldn’t be a county issue.

Dahl said he planned to fly an airplane over the two spots Thursday to see if he could tell how many horses were in need of water. Dahl and Commissioner Jeff Williams both own dozers, which they said could fix the road depending on its condition.

Rainstorms provide temporary puddles for the horses to drink, Wiscombe said, but the land won’t hold water for long.

Due to the shutdown, calls to the BLM state office and U.S. Department of Interior went unanswered.

On Friday, the BLM Elko District contacted the Free Press. For the latest information click here.

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