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Wildhorse meeting attracts 150

by Christy Chalmers, staff writer

More than 150 people crowded into the Fish Springs fire station Wednesday night with a single goal: coexisting with wild horses.

Their ideas were varied: don’t feed or water them. Set aside land for a wild horse preserve. Form a volunteer committee to investigate complaints and herd the horses away from places they’re not wanted.

“We should look at it as a big asset for us, not a nuisance,” said one.

“If we can change the Constitution, why can’t we change the law about wild horses?” asked another.

The comments came from people who enjoy the animals and oppose the periodic roundups that leave only a few small bands to roam the foothill neighborhoods. While representatives of two federal agencies said they’re willing to work on long-term management solutions that mean fewer roundups, they cautioned the process will have to include perspectives from people who dislike the horses and have complained about them.

“People need to seek out common ground,” said Jane Schmidt, a resource specialist with the Natural Resources and Conservation Service. “You need to bring all the parties to the table. Fencing is not the final answer.”

Schmidt joined wild horse specialist Jake Jacobsen and assistant field manager Dan Jacquet of the Carson City Bureau of Land Management office at the meeting, the first of its kind.

The agencies are hoping to work out a long-term management policy for the horses, which roam the Pine Nut range. The BLM periodically rounds up wild horses, a practice that inevitably generates complaints and allegations of cruelty from residents who enjoy the animals. Others don’t like the horses eating their grass and wandering on their land, and if they complain, the BLM has to remove the animals.

While Nevada law says private property owners should fence their property to keep unwanted animals away, Jacobsen said prior court decisions have still held the BLM responsible for removing the animals. So does the Wild Horse and Burro Act, which says the BLM must remove the horses if people complain.

“We have some limited options here,” said Jacobsen.

Jacquet encouraged the residents to form a group and work with the BLM, both on local options for managing the horses and possibly to lobby for changes in the law at the federal level.

Jacobsen and Jacquet said the group could also get involved in a land use management plan that is being updated for the Pine Nut range.

Schmidt said she’ll meet with any resident who wants information on horse-proofing their property. She can be reached at 782-3661, ext. 106.