Governor signs wild horse bill |

Governor signs wild horse bill

Staff Reports

A bill that allows the Nevada Department of Agriculture to resume cooperative agreements between the state and nonprofit organizations to oversee the wild horses in the Virginia Range outside Reno was signed Monday by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.

“This is a huge step forward for protecting wild horses under the state’s jurisdiction,” said founder and CEO of Return to Freedom Neda DeMayo. “Cooperative agreements for on-the-range management of the Virginia Range mustangs are a win-win situation for advocates, the State of Nevada and the horses. The wild horses of the Virginia Range are an important cultural and historic resource, and we look forward to working with the state to preserve them.”

Assembly Bill 264 protects the horses, who are classified under state law as “feral/estray livestock,” by creating a penalty for the illegal feeding of horses. This often lures horses into dangerous situations and can result in their capture and removal from the range.

In March, Return to Freedom, the founding organization for the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, executed Phase 1 of a plan to protect the Virginia Range mustangs by entering into a cooperative agreement with the state that prevents any horses captured by the state from being sent to a slaughter auction.

Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, R-Gardnerville, with support from the bill’s sponsor Assemblyman Tom Grady, R-Yerington, offered amendments to the bill to add the word “management” to Nevada State law relating to feral and estray “livestock” (which includes wild horses) to allow the department of agriculture to resume cooperative agreements. Agriculture Director Jim Barbee supported the amendments.

“We commend Assemblymen Wheeler and Grady, Director Barbee and Governor Sandoval for taking a pro-active approach to managing the Virginia Range horses in conjunction with the community,” said Deniz Bolbol, Campaign spokesperson who has spearheaded the Virginia Range protection initiative working in concert with Nevada wild horse protection groups.”Our program for protecting the Virginia Range wild horses will serve as a model of productive public/private partnership for the humane management of wild horses on the range where they belong.”

The current cooperative agreement between Return to Freedom and the state allows for the purchase of captured horses directly from the state, thus bypassing the slaughter auction. To date, eight captured Virginia Range horses have been rescued under this arrangement.

The state has jurisdiction over the historic Virginia Range horses, who have roamed the northern Nevada mountain range near Reno for more than a century. Because they make their home on state, local and private land, instead of federal land, they are not protected under the federal Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, and are classified as “estray livestock” by the state.