BLM seeks middle ground on horse issue |

BLM seeks middle ground on horse issue

by Christy Chalmers

A Bureau of Land Management representative says he’d like to find middle ground on managing the wild horses that roam the eastern foothills along Carson Valley.

The assertion follows a proposal by Douglas County Commissioner Bernie Curtis to require the BLM to hold hearings before the periodic roundups of the wild horses. The roundups are a federally required response to complaints from homeowners who don’t want wild horses eating their grass and wandering on their land, but many residents welcome the horses because they enjoy watching them.

After 42 horses were rounded up in late February, Curtis asked District Attorney Scott Doyle to find out if a county ordinance requiring hearings prior to roundups is legally feasible.

“There’s going to be an ordinance if Scott Doyle says we can do it,” he said Wednesday. “I’m ready to go forward.”

Doyle said he hasn’t had a chance to do the work, and Dan Jacquet, assistant manager of renewable resources with the BLM’s Carson City office, says it’s not necessary.

“We would abide by anything the county required. It wouldn’t take an ordinance,” said Jacquet.

His offer is to establish a group that would focus on ways to manage the horses without contradicting the federal Wild Horse and Burro Act, which mandates that the animals be gathered if they roam outside their designated management area and residents complain they are a nuisance. The roundups inevitably trigger complaints that eventually diminish, until the next roundup.

“I would like to break that cycle somehow,” said Jacquet. “I don’t know that things would change, but I would like to try to look at alternatives.”

He said options could include reviewing the boundaries of the herd management area, discouraging those who provide food and water to the horses and helping to provide fencing on land where the horses aren’t welcome.

A similar strategy was suggested by Jane Schmidt, a resource specialist with the Natural Resource Conservation Service. She said the NRCS can provide free advice on building horse-proof fences and other ways to protect private property. She can be reached at 782-3661.

The horses could also be addressed in the BLM land use plans that govern the Pine Nut mountain range.

“You can’t promise outcomes going in, but we can take a look at it through our land use planning process,” said Jacquet. “I really think the short-term issues are things that could be done without major land use decisions or changing federal law.”

He added that he’s willing to address county leaders and residents, though neither side has tried to schedule a meeting.

Curtis acknowledged Jacquet’s suggestion and agrees that a campaign to discourage feeding and watering the horses is a good idea. But he said he would prefer public hearings that would allow those who enjoy the horses to talk with those who want them removed.

“I know it’s not a pressing issue since there are no horses to round up any more,” said Curtis. “(Committees) are not the tact we’re going to take. We’re going to go ahead with our ordinance.”