Board rules in favor of transferring wild horses to private party

RENO, Nev (KOLO) In a nine-to-one vote, Nevada's Agriculture Board set the agriculture department on the road to handing the responsibility of the Virginia Range Herd to someone else. Their management, their range, their safety will be in the care of a yet-unknown private party.

Vice Chair of the Board Boyd Spratling put it this way.

”The good thing is, it now opens up the latitude for them as they see fit, how they want to do it. It doesn't have to apply to administrative code, or regulation or anything else. I think that is a tremendous positive for a potential group,” said Spratling to the board. .

The horses have been on the range for years. But with development, and traffic, they have also posed a safety hazard on Veterans Parkway and other thoroughfares near the Virginia Range.

In a contract signed two years ago, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign along with local horse advocacy groups agreed to manage the herd and protect them from traffic. That was with cooperation of the Department of Agriculture.

But that agreement was canceled last month when the Department of AG said the AWHPC was only doing birth control on the herds, and nothing else.

Despite the dispute advocates for the horses, more than 100 at the hearing asked the board to vote no on the proposal.

“This video has been viewed more times than there are people in Las Vegas, Nevada,” said Chris Thompson with Tahoe Reno Industrial Center as he referred to a video shot outside the battery factory in Storey County by Tesla founder Elon Musk

“One to three thousand horses at stake. And it is really important that we put our heads together and do something the right way,” Mark Dove told the board.

“Once a property is sold, be it horses, houses, land or anything, intention is water under the bridge,” said Karen Roemmich, a Virginia Highlands resident.

In the hearing AG Director Jim Barbee says staff will be directed to draw up the contract, and set out a proposal to find a private party to take on the task. Public hearings or input would not be considered.

Of major concern to advocates: could these horses go to slaughter, even though board members say that is not their intention?

We asked a board member if a person involved in this contract wanted to slaughter these horses, bring the numbers down from 3,000 to 300; the department has nothing to say about that, right?

“Well, you are giving hypotheticals,” replied David Stix, a board member who voted yes on the measure.

“The department doesn’t want to have that happen to these horses,” Stix said.

If no group decides to enter into a contract for ownership of the Virginia Range horses, the Department of Agriculture said it will come back to the board to examine other alternatives.

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