Wild Horses and Burros can have their water — and drink it too

Wild Horses and Burros can have their water — and drink it too

“One thing we don’t have are a lot of the facts.” – Senate Committee Chairman Mark Manendo

By Catherine Burt
Friends of Animals

wild horse

UPDATE: May, 23 2011

Responding to a firestorm of public outrage against Nevada bill AB 329, which sought to deny water rights for wild horses and burros, the Senate Natural Resources Committee chose not to take action on the bill without further study.

In the May 20, 2011 meeting, Chairman Mark Manendo read a prepared statement to the Committee, citing numerous problems, including potential for litigation, lack of need for such a bill, and a poor public image of the state, should the bill pass.

“There are too many unknowns here. The BLM hasn’t testified. A lot of erroneous information got tossed around at the hearing and a lot of conflicting opinions clashed. If the bill is, as the proponents swear, not going to keep the horses from getting water anyway, and since the BLM has only a few water rights for wildlife purposes anyway, there doesn’t seem to be a compelling reason this law is needed. “

The Committee agreed to send a letter to the Legislative Committee on Public Lands, requesting further review and study of possible impacts of the bill, during the 2011-2012 interim. The letter urges the Committee to work with all interested parties to reach a mutually agreeable consensus. The legislation could then be brought back for consideration in the 2013 legislative session.

The draft letter to the Public Lands Committee will be available on Nevada’s Electronic Legislative Information System (NELIS)

Friends of Animals would like to thank supporters for the thousands of emails, letters, and phone calls that were made on behalf of the wild horses and burros. You have made a huge difference in the lives of these animals!

No Water for Wild Horses? May, 16, 2011

Advocates pack Nevada Senate Natural Resource meeting to oppose AB 329

Assembly Bill 329, a Nevada bill that would remove wild horses and burros from the definition of wildlife, was presented in the meeting that Committee Chair Manendo described as “a packed house.”

A longtime rancher and sponsor of AB 329, Assembly member Pete Goicoechea said at the May 13 2011 meeting that the bill’s purpose is to prevent the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from using wild horses and burros as a beneficial use of water rights. “It just clarifies that wild horses and burros are under jurisdiction of the federal government.”

State Engineer Jason King, whose office is neutral on the bill, stated an understanding that the bill will apply prospectively ““ for future water use permits, not existing ones. If the bill passes, the BLM will be denied water use permits for wild horses and burros.

Representatives from the agriculture and cattle sector repeated a chorus of wild horses aren’t wildlife and stumbled through a choreography of Nevada’s unwillingness to provide water use permits for wild horses ““ while maintaining that there is no plan to deny water to horses. They assured the public that there has been a misunderstanding about the bill and its purpose.

But we do understand it. Wildlife habitat is among the standard categories that water managers use to describe a beneficial use of water. If wild horses are not considered wildlife, the idea is that water will not be appropriated for these animals.

In a November 2010 draft letter to the State Engineer, the Nevada Department of Wildlife, which claims to be officially neutral on this issue, states:

“The Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners would strenuously object to any attempt to assign a form of beneficial use of Nevada water for these federally owned animals and we find that it would be entirely appropriate for the State of Nevada instruct the federal agencies to remove any federal animals that are using water in violation of Nevada Law.”

So this targets horses drinking today.

One of the concerns raised in the meeting is the issue of allowing water permits to future wild horse sanctuaries. King said his office believes that any future sanctuaries could be granted water rights under the right circumstances, by re-classifying wild horses on the sanctuary as “livestock.” Those opposed to the bill responded by saying they didn’t believe that would happen, and there is no assurance in the bill that it would.

Coalition for Wildlife?

Jeremy Drew, Director for Coalition for Nevada’s Wildlife, characterized the wild horses and burros as an ever-expanding non-native species problem, despite the removal of tens of thousands of wild horses and burros from the open range in recent years.

But opponents of the bill outnumbered the proponents about three-to-one. Their message: AB 329 is a disaster. It should not be signed into law, and will face legal challenges if it is.

The whole nation is watching as Nevada, led by its cattle industry, works to convince itself that wild horses and burros are not wildlife.

What you can do:

Senate voting on this bill will take place before Friday, May 20, 2011. Your action is needed urgently and quickly, so this bill dies in Committee.

Nevada residents, please contact the Senate and the Committee on Natural resources, and tell them this bill must be rejected.

Members of the Nevada Senate:

Email Senators:
Contact online

Committee on Natural Resources:

Senator Mark Manendo Email (775) 684-6503
Senator David Parks Email (775) 684-6504
Senator John Jay Lee Email (775) 684-1424
Senator Dean Rhoads Email (775) 684-1447
Senator Michael Roberson Email (775) 684-1481

Everyone:
Contact the Governor of Nevada, Brian Sandoval

Contact online Phone: (775) 684-5670

You may also leave comments on the Nevada Legislature website.

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