Sandoval to Drop Nevada Agriculture Director

By  | 

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval has decided not to retain state Agriculture Director Tony Lesperance in his administration, a Sandoval spokesman said.

Dale Erquiaga told the Nevada Appeal that the state Board of Agriculture has been notified that Sandoval will not accept Lesperance as director. While the board hires the director of the Agriculture Department, state law says the choice must be approved by the governor.

"We don't want to go into the legislative session with a conversation about the director," Erquiaga said. "We want to go into the legislation session with a conversation about agriculture."

Erquiaga's comments follow the release of a survey that found Agriculture Department employees were critical of Lesperance and his management style.

Fewer than half of the 50 employees surveyed had a positive view of the director. The department employs about 80 people.

Wild horse advocates also have been at odds with Lesperance over management of mustangs in the Virginia Range, which runs from Dayton to Reno. A 1997 law gave his department responsibility for managing wild horses in the range.

Before being appointed to the post by Gov. Jim Gibbons in 2008, Lesperance was a rancher who had a key role in an anti-federal government crusade in northeastern Nevada in the mid-1990s.

He was an outspoken critic of what he termed arbitrary land management decisions by federal agencies. He labeled them a conspiracy between environmental groups and the federal agencies to rid public lands of livestock.

Lesperance was chairman of the Elko County Commission when a fight developed over the county's effort to rebuild a washed-out road on federal land despite the U.S. Forest Service's environmental concerns. He vowed to rebuild the road "come hell or high water."