Wild horse eco-sanctuary up in the air


From: Elko Daily Free Press
By: Dylan Woolf Harris

wild_horses_elkoELKO — A proposed 550,000-acre wild horse eco-sanctuary in Elko County has hit a snag that could seal its fate.

The project, to be operated by Saving America’s Mustangs, a nonprofit organization owned by wealthy animal-advocate Madeleine Pickens, covers parcels of Bureau of Land Management and private land.

But the water rights in the area are for cattle or sheep use — not wild horses.

The proposed site is on the Spruce Allotment south of Wells, which includes portions of three wild horse herd management areas: Spruce Pequops, Goshute and Antelope Valley. Under SAM’s original plan, the organization would retire a now-existing grazing permit and use the forage for horses.

In exchange for care of the nonreproductive horses, the BLM would pay SAM a stipend.

“The big benefit to the taxpayer is that the cost to keep that horse would be a lot less out on the range (than it is in holding facilities),” said Bryan Fuell, BLM Wells field office manager.

Complications arose from state water laws. SAM obtained water rights in the area, which were for cattle, but that right doesn’t extend to wildlife or wild horses.

A Nevada Division of Water Resources representative said Tuesday applicants can request water use changes, but SAM didn’t have a pending application with the state.

If SAM decides not to apply for a water use change, it could decide to graze the horses as livestock.

“BLM would either sell or give the horses to SAM, and they would have a viable domestic grazing permit for domestic horse,” Fuell said. But under this option, SAM wouldn’t receive a stipend from the federal government because of the horses’ domestic status, which makes the project less attractive. Domestic horses that graze on public land have to be branded, as well.

Fuell said the BLM is waiting to hear how SAM wishes to proceed with permitting and analysis, but a letter his office received months ago indicated the organization had changed its mind.

SAM’s spokesperson was unable to be reached for comment.

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AUTHOR: Amber Barnes
  • Callie1983

    Ms. Pickens’ plan for a non-reproducing herd of Geldings is not now, nor will it ever be, a good idea for the horses. I hope this brings this to a close and that she keeps her herd of Geldings as her charges for the rest of their lives.

    June 12, 2014
  • mustang man

    LOL, They are Feral when they want to get rid of them or Wild when they want to keep them from the water. well which is it?

    June 12, 2014
  • Barbara Leonard

    Good….hope Pickens loses her ass. But we should delve into why welfare ranchers are the only ones entitled to the water.

    June 12, 2014
  • Margaret

    It isn’t terribly shocking that Nevada is once again hollering about water rights.

    While I have doubts about Madeleines plan and the expensive rates she charges–BLM was very resistant to an eco-sanctuary, and now Nevada is once again trying to refuse water to the horses.

    Guess I just feel that people who keep wanting to shut the water off to the horses need to go without for 2 or 3 days. I have to wonder how and why so few horses in comparison to cattle and sheep can wreak so much havoc.

    I was in Reno a couple years ago. Nevada is a very dry state. Anyway this coffee house had misters going the entire time I was shopping to cool their customers. While I’m sure it felt nice WHAT A WASTE OF WATER was my thought then and still is. You have water to waste misting people but yet you want to turn the water off to animals.

    It’s a pretty sure bet that Nevada hates anything but moo moo cows and baa baa sheep.

    June 12, 2014
  • Janet Schultz

    Months ago, the price of molybdenum fell by about 60%. The Mt. Moly project may have been affected by that drastic price correction and of course, that would cut into her tourista trade, not to mention bajillions of gallons of water per day to run the mine, which probably is affecting the downstream water supply to Goshutes, Anteope, Spruce and all the other HMAs to the South. It is a big joke. All these maneurverings and none of it is about the HORSES or other WILDLIFE who stand to suffer as a consequence of these rash actions.

    This is a complicated issue further complicated by the fact that even if she did have water rights for the category of animals she was to have, the Las Vegas project is already forecast to drain off water tables depleting the Goshutes, Antelope and Spruce HMAs. I have not heard of any protest by the Tribes, but then media is so darned dependable, I am sure it just slipped their minds.

    June 12, 2014