Pressure Building in NV to Restore Agreements for Humane Mustang Management

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January 11, 2018... It’s been nearly two months since the Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA) abruptly terminated two Cooperative Agreements between the state and the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) that allowed for the rescue and humane management of the Virginia Range mustangs in northern Nevada.

The unexpected cancellation halted a highly successful birth control program that reduced population growth rates of this wild horse population by almost 30 percent in the first year alone. Incredibly, with a small team of volunteers and a budget of under $50,000, we vaccinated more horses in the Virginia Range in 2017 than the entire BLM, with its $80 million a year budget, did in 2016.  The successful program proved that humane alternatives for wild horse management work, even on large wild horse populations in large habitat areas. That’s why the pro-slaughter cattlemen and their political allies – nowhere stronger than in Nevada – wanted to kill it.

Not content to just kill the program, the livestock lobby is now pushing a plan – approved by the Nevada Board of Agriculture – to transfer ownership of the approximately 3,000 mustangs to a private entity. At a public hearing, NDA director Jim Barbee stated that the department’s intent was to giveaway the horses to a private entity. At the same time he acknowledged that the new owners would have an “absolute property private property right” to do what they wanted with the horses. Over 100 citizens turned out to oppose the plan; only one person testified in favor. That was pro-slaughter cheerleader Dave Duquette of Protect the Harvest, which lobbies for horse slaughter and other abusive animal industries and practices. Read more about why AWHC opposes this plan.

We are fighting back against these developments and coming on strong!

Local wild horse advocates recently held their 7th protest outside Governor Brian Sandoval’s office in Carson City. Close to 200 citizens joined a candle-lit vigil for the Virginia Range horses at the Governor’s office this past weekend. Their efforts to call attention to the state’s plan to transfer ownership of these cherished mustangs to a private party are paying off with extensive media coverage. Business leaders at the Tahoe Reno Industrial (TRI) Center, which is responsible for an economic boom in the larger Reno area, have joined local citizens in speaking out for restoration of the Cooperative Agreements that were put in place to humanely manage the Virginia Range Horses.

At 100,000 acres, the TRI – home to companies like Tesla, Switch, Google and Amazon – comprises one-third of the Virginia Range mustangs’ habitat. So it’s fortunate that the TRI leadership – Lance Gilman, Storey County Commissioner and TRI Principal and Director and TRI Project Manager Kris Thompson – and the companies that operate there – are unwavering in their support for protection of the Virginia Range horses. Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently tweeted about “wild horses running free,” touting them as one of the attractions for employment at the Tesla Giga Factory, which is located at the TRI. TRI management concurs, viewing the mustangs as part of their “brand.”

The public pressure is paying off and the momentum appears to be shifting. After receiving a letter on the subject from Commissioner Gilman, Governor Sandoval responded by directing the Agriculture Department to open a dialogue with the TRI leaders. Agriculture Board member Boyd Spratling, a former president of the Nevada Cattlemen's Association, told the Reno Gazette Journal "nothing is set in stone in any state process," indicating a possible retreat from the controversial plan to give away the beloved Virginia Range mustangs and cut out the public from any say in their management and protection. 

We must continue the pressure and pursue dialogue between the state, local citizens and the business community in order to resume the successful public/private partnership for the humane management of the Virginia Range horses. But the only way we’ll achieve that goal is if we keep up and INCREASE the pressure. These government officials must understand in no uncertain terms that we will NOT GO AWAY and we will NOT GIVE UP.

What You Can Do

1. Call Governor Sandoval: 775-684-5670 (Carson City) or 775-684-5683(Las Vegas). Please tell him:

If you are from Nevada:

As a Nevadan, I ask Governor Sandoval to reverse the Board of Agriculture’s decision to give away the Virginia Range horses to a private entity. This would prevent the public from having a voice in the protection of these horses and allows the new owner to do what they want with them, including send them to slaughter. Please keep the horses under state jurisdiction and restore the cooperative agreements with the American Wild Horse Campaign that were providing for humane management and rescue of these horses that are part of our state's history and culture.

If you are from outside of Nevada

As an American who travels for business and personal vacations in Nevada (or if applicable "As someone who visits Nevada as a tourist"), I urge Governor Sandoval to stop the transfer of ownership of the cherished Virginia Range horses to a private entity that will have the right to do what they want with them, including slaughter. I urge the Governor to reinstate the Cooperative Agreements with the American Wild Horse Campaign to provide for the humane management and rescue of Virginia Range horses and preserve this important tourism resource. I will not spend my tourism dollars in Nevada if the Governor proceeds with this giveaway.

2. Send the Governor an email by clicking here.

3. Reach out to the Governor on Facebook and Twitter.

We're not giving up on the Virginia Range horses and you can't either. It’s going to take a lot of work, but we will prevail in the end. So please act today and stay tuned - we'll get you the latest developments as they happen.

This push to get rid of wild horses panders to a small, extremist group of ranchers who have long wanted to kill wild horses. However, the vast majority of Americans loves wild horses. This ill-conceived plan cannot succeed as long as we Americans stand up and make our voices heard LOUD and CLEAR. This is about democracy; this is about what is right and good and we will prevail … but the wild horses need you to help make it happen.