No deal on Fish Springs horses |

No deal on Fish Springs horses

Camille Bently talks to residents about a proposed agreement between the BLM and the Pine Nut Wild Horse Advocates on Thursday night.
Kurt Hildebrand

Residents seeking to keep wild horses in Fish Springs will ask President Trump to override the Bureau of Land Management.

More than 100 people turned out to a meeting on Thursday night to hear an update on a proposed agreement between the BLM and the Pine Nut Wild Horse Advocates.

“The community was clear they do not want us to sign this agreement because they feel strongly that it sets us and the horses up for failure,” Advocates President Mary Cioffi said. “The majority of the folks at the meeting are President Trump supporters and believe that when he learns of the situation he will support our community.”

Cioffi said the next step for the Advocates is to attempt to gain Trump’s attention on the wild horse issues.

“Now we begin the quest to make President Trump aware of this rigged system,” she said. “We need written assurances from the BLM that as we work toward making progress, our community won’t be axed.”

Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Lisa Ross said there’s a possibility Advocates will submit another proposal to upper BLM management.

“We will wait to see what is decided at that point,” she said.

Christopher and Camille Bently are the majority grazing allotment holders in Douglas County. On Thursday, Camille Bently said the company supports keeping the wild horses in the Fish Springs area.

“The land and animals we’re talking about don’t belong to BLM, and they don’t belong to ranchers exclusively, they belong to the America public,” she said. “They are a point of pride, and also of responsibility. I believe the way forward is a partnership with the Wild Horse Advocates that’s key.”

Bently said she supported a reasonable agreement with the BLM that gives residents sufficient time to improve the rangeland.

“I’m in support of an (agreement) but the terms have to be reasonable,” she said. “I’m here as an American citizen, a businesswoman, a rancher and an environmentalist, and I’m ready for solutions, reasonable ones, achievable ones and terms that give this project a chance for success, a real chance of working.”

BLM Sierra Front Acting Field Manager Victoria Wilkins said one of the reasons the Fish Springs horses have been spared from a gather is because there was an agreement in the works.

She said the BLM’s position hasn’t changed since last year. The agency recently completed a gather on the Pine Nut herd management area.

“This area is outside the herd management area and therefore is an area by policy direction where we would be removing the horses,” Wilkins said. “We agree our management tools are limited with horses. We agree that looking for creative solutions and working with the community is absolutely the right thing to do.”

Should the goals be met, the southern Pine Nuts would be added back into the Pine Nut Mountain Herd Management Area.

One of the reasons that’s important is because BLM’s policy is not to manage horses outside of designated areas. While horses have roamed the Pine Nuts for decades, the area’s boundaries stop in far northern Douglas County. Douglas was included in the original law that established the areas, but was removed in the 1980s.

According to background included in the agreement, the BLM has removed about 70 nuisance and injured horses from the Fish Springs area since 2006. Horses were removed because of residents’ complaints, which increased in late 2018.

Under the current Pine Nut Herd Management Area Plan, the BLM only wants to manage 11-26 horses, but that could be re-evaluated based on success of the agreement.

“In order for BLM to convert Fish Springs back to an HMA, there will need to be adequate water, forage, space and cover present on public lands, or private lands with written agreement from the landowner, to support a self-sustaining population,” the agreement said.

It has been 50 years since news of a haylift to help feed the Pine Nut wild horses went the 1969-equivalent of viral.

Helicopters operated by volunteers dropped hay to the snowbound horses.

The haylift made national headlines including the front page of the New York Times.