In 2016, the Record ran a story about the wild horse problem in Lincoln County as well as much of the western United States. The problem has not gotten any better, but with the change of administration in Washington at the Department of the Interior, it might be turning toward improvement.
Lincoln County Commissioner Varlin Higbee attended a BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting in Grand Junction, Colorado, in October along with representatives from at least 11 western states.
Last year, Lincoln County alone had a problem with horse-vehicle collisions on major roads, particular U.S. 93. No major injuries occurred, but Sheriff Kerry Lee thought it would only be a matter of time before one did occur.
BLM did conduct a few wild horse gathers earlier this year which helped to a small degree, but the problem is far from resolved.
Nevada is home to over half the estimated 2,000-3,000 wild horses on the nation’s rangelands. Now, a year later, the estimates are up nearly six to nine times more in official Animal Unit Levels.
Higbee said from the meeting in Grand Junction, recommendations were made and submitted stating the need for changing existing law to allow for the slaughter of select horses, and for direct sale.
“The current regulations are failing,” he said. “They are currently being treated like an endangered species and they’re not. Allow the sale to foreign countries. Mexico, Canada, Russia, and a few others have expressed interest. But the wild horse advocates are too afraid to allow that because of not knowing what the horses would be used for in foreign countries.”
He said, “Maybe the recommendations will not be the most popular, but are the ones that need to happen to get extreme overpopulation levels down to where they can be managed and the ecosystem is not being destroyed.”
Another meeting will be held this coming spring in Washington D.C.
Along the Nevada-Utah border is one area of concern, as well as the center of the state, in Eureka, Lander, Humboldt, and parts of Esmeralda and Nye Counties.
“The water availability bunches them up in areas where there is water,” Higbee said. “But at the same time, that takes away and tramples down the ecological system for cattle, wild game, even down to the smallest sage grouse and bug depend on. Right now, according to federal regulations, cows can be taken off, but not the horses. The grazing fields are decimated and it is unknown if they will ever recover. Many cattle operations, including mine, have places just like that.”
Higbee stated he feels the BLM has bowed to the demands of environmental groups and horse advocate groups that do not want anything done. “Leave the horses to go the way of nature is the thinking. If they starve to death, they starve to death.”
He said, “If we have a hard winter this year along our eastern border, they are going to die by the thousands. There are an estimated 9,000 head of horses on our eastern border with Utah, including Elko County. It is not pretty to see a starving horse. It’s disgraceful. Most people love horses, wild or domestic. The advocate groups ought to be ashamed of themselves.”
Higbee noted each horse, and burro, too, “is put on this earth for a purpose, and the only way that animal is dignified is by serving its purpose, not just allowed to starve to death. The Indians knew how to do this well.”