RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - A two-year-old agreement between wild horse advocates and the Department of Agriculture will be discontinued by the end of the month. That’s the word coming from the Nevada Department of Agriculture, which says the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign is not holding up its end of the bargain.
Horses on the Virginia Range have been part of the landscape for more than a century. But with development in the area, their habitat is slowly getting smaller and smaller. Just last month, four horses were killed at Rio Wrangler and Veterans Parkway.
Such incidents were supposed to be mitigated after a 2015 agreement between the Nevada Department of Agriculture and the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign. One woman with the group says that's exactly what she is doing.
“I was out monitoring a band for two hours ensuring that they stayed off the road,” says Maureen Daane with Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association..
What would she have done if they got on the road?
"I would have used my safety training, redirected them into the field where they are supposed to be,” says Daane.
The Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association works closely with the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign. Daane says it’s a tough job as the range encompasses 600 miles. Protecting the horses and residents was just part of that agreement.
The Preservation Campaign, with the help of local wild horse advocates, also agreed to pay for and implement fertility control methods, adoption and private placements and strategies to reduce the number of human-horse conflicts. But according to the NDA, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign is only interested in one thing.
“They only wanted to participate in the fertility control portion,” says Doug Ferris, Nevada Department of Agriculture Animal Industry Division Administrator.
As a result, the NDA has terminated the contract as of November 25, 2017.
“Yeah, hurray, finally,” was Anna Orchards reaction.
Orchard says because of that laser focus on birth control for the horses, all other aspects of the program have gone by the wayside.
“This past year has been over-the-top busy. There are horses migrating down to the highways, the neighborhoods. We've had a ridiculous amounts of horses with broken legs on the range from fighting,” says Orchard with Virginia Range Sanctuary.
Deniz Bolbol with the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign says the Nevada Department of Agriculture is not being honest, that the contract termination comes as a complete surprise to her organization. She says NDA forced her hand to only concentrate on birth control as the agency wouldn't let local groups execute the other duties of the contract.
She says no one in the NDA ever notified her there was a problem with how her affiliates were managing the horses. She also says she was not allowed to present last year's required annual report, and that no one will return her calls, from Ferris to the Nevada Agriculture Chief to the Governor Brian Sandoval himself.
“We are all devastated. We all want this to work out,” says Daane, who hopes all parties can come to the table before the end of November.
The Department of Agriculture was aware of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign’s intent to modify the cooperative agreement in July 2016.
An annual year-end report on the management of the Virginia Range Horses was due to the agriculture department in March of 2017.
Why is it taking until now to terminate the contract? The department says a change in management and limited staff meant delays at the Department of Agriculture to truly understand the situation.
With feral horses coming down into the urban areas, the department says a new agreement was needed to better protect public safety.