Second Annual Wild Horse Conference held at TRIC

Last Friday TRIC principal and Storey County Commissioner Lance Gilman and the TRI Center hosted a group of wildlife Wild Horse Advocates, representatives from the Nevada Department of Agriculture and approximately twelve TRIC Businesses for the second annual Wild Horse Conference.

TRIC project Manager Kris Thompson led the meeting and defined the purpose of the meeting as providing information about the status of TRIC’s horse population as well as to give an update on this year’s focus which is around water and expanding water resources for the TRIC wildlife which includes both the horses and the big horn sheep.

At the end of the meeting a request went out to the participating TRIC companies to consider sponsoring special watering stations for the horses and other wildlife as part of an overall strategy to sustain the herds and to draw the horses deeper into TRIC lands where they will be less of a public safety issue.

Kris Thompson said that TRIC is trying to make its development and build-out a positive for the horses insomuch as TRIC has the space for the horses and plans to be strategic with its placement of water stations. He stressed that environmental support is good for business but needs the financial support of the TRIC companies. He asked the managers at the meeting to be the advocates within their companies to help secure funding for the building and maintenance of several new watering stations. The cost for one station is about $12,000 the first year. Lance Gilman announced that TRIC had cut a check as the first sponsor for the first new watering station.

Both Kris Thompson and Lance Gilman spoke about how important the wild horses are to TRIC since they are part of the TRIC and the Storey County brand. Lance stated that the horses are directly connected to both our tourism and business recruitment efforts. While acknowledging that the horses can be a public safety hazard if not properly managed Lance went on to describe that they represent a wild freedom and ruggedness that people associate with the West and stressed the importance of their role in attracting people to the area.

Lance further stated that since TRIC is on the world stage that the TRIC companies have the opportunity to make a real difference in wildlife preservation. He said that the decisions made will be noticed and that it is a chance to do some leading edge work around how to successfully manage and balance the needs of our wildlife and the needs of growing development.

The meeting was very timely this year given the recent House Appropriations Committee “no” vote on the Department of Agriculture spending Bill amendment to keep horse slaughter out of the U.S. If this vote holds thru the final budget it potentially paves the way for an increased rate of “disposal” of the approximately 50,000 horses currently in long and short term round-up pens across Nevada and the U.S.

Lance Gilman stated his opposition to the action and said that both he and Kris Thompson had called Congressman Mark Amodei’s office to voice their concerns. Amodei is the Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee who voted no, a vote for slaughter.

If you want to voice your concerns please call Congressman Amodei’s office:
Washington, DC: (202) 225-6155
Reno: (775) 686-5760

Below is a summary of the presentations:

Doug Faris and Range Marshal Chris Miller from the Nevada Dept. of Agriculture (NDA) presented the various NRS’s which govern the management of the horses. As with last year’s presentation the NDA stressed that from a legal standpoint and by legal definition the local horse population was not wild at all but stray and feral and not protected under the “Wild Horse and Burros Act”. The NDA has the responsibility for the process and logistics of managing the horses from a public safety standpoint. Addressing nuisance horses and controlling the horse population thru removal from the range and sometimes sale to killer buyers is one of the methods that they have used in the past. They have several cooperative agreements with local horse groups as sub-contractors, to work issues relating to diversionary feeding, contraception, removal, and adoption of these horses.

Doug provided some statistics noting that Nevada has about 35,000 wild horses and that 2,000 of those are in the Virginia Range, an area of about 400 square miles. Additionally, he showed a chart illustrating that the Virginia Range horse population increased from 1650 horses in 2008 to 1959 horses in 2014. This increase in the horse population isn’t sustainable especially with a shrinking habitat as well as a decrease in natural predators to cull the herds.

There is another horse count scheduled for 2018.

Doug also described the reporting process for horse and livestock incidents involving injured or deceased animals as well as immediate threats or accidents involving human injuries. Doug introduced Willis Lamm with Lyon County Large Animal Rescue as his main contact for a variety of horse related issues specifically the removal and relocation of nuisance horses and the euthanizing of disabled animals.

Lacy J Dalton, Chairperson of the Let ‘em Run Foundation, got up to praise Willis’s efforts as the only resource that responds to serious horse issues and to alert people to the fact that his ability to continue to perform this invaluable task will be hampered by his lack of working equipment, trained volunteers and funds. She asked that they consider supporting his efforts financially so that he can continue to do this very important work.

There was agreement in the room that there needs to be mitigation efforts aimed at diverting the horses away from the highways so as not to cause public safety issues. One of the mitigation methods is the strategic placement of the water. Lance said that there was water all over TRIC and that those locations were magnets drawing the horses into congested areas. The watering stations need to be relocated farther away from the congested areas.

Deniz Bolbol from the American Wild Horse Campaign gave an update on the contraceptive darting program which is part of the Co-operative Agreement with the NDA. She reported that they have surpassed the goals of the agreement by having identified and catalogued over 800 horses and having darted over 400 horses. Additionally, she stated that this contraceptive approach is the largest I the world with about 3000 horses being served.

Seth Alexander from Ames Construction who is building the USA Parkway project reported that out of the $80 million dollar budget to build the Parkway over $5 million has been designated for wildlife protection in the form of underpasses, fencing, cattle guards and other design methods to protect both people and horses on the Parkway.

Mickey Hazelwood from the Nature conservancy provided a status of a few of the wetlands projects that the Conservancy has been involved in as well as a description of the water “guzzlers” that they have in place for the wildlife. These “guzzlers” cost between $40-50,000 to build and install and they are not designed for the horses. They do however attract the horses and that creates issues for the wildlife that they are intended for and for the horses who are drawn closer to the highway and pose a public safety issue.

Below is the list of the Wild Horse and wildlife groups who attended:

Willis Lamm with Lyon County Large Animal Rescue
Lacy J Dalton, Chairperson of the Let ‘em Run Foundation
Deniz Bolbol from the American Wild Horse Campaign
Mickey Hazelwood from the Nature conservancy
Larry Johnson, Coalition of Nevada’s Wildlife
Pat Colletti, Virginia Range Sanctuary
Bob Maccario, Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association
Dorothy Nylan, Wild Horse Preservation League

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