Nevada has long suffered from the overpopulation of feral horses on its landscape. Populations continue to rise unchecked and are now at several times the carrying capacity of the habitat. Nearly 60,000 (as of 2022) are in “off-range” care at BLM corrals. The situation continues to degrade every year, with a lasting drought, increasing horse numbers, and more horses than adoptions can accommodate. This dire situation has no foreseeable improvement, with mitigation efforts simply not working.
A proposal is now working its way through the Nevada state legislature to designate the “wild mustang as the official state horse of Nevada.” This bill, SB90, would exacerbate an already serious ecological disaster. The language in the bill suggests that this will promote tourism and job creation for the state as a “natural resource,” but it does not address any biological concerns or studies on feral horses and burros.
The clear concern is that elevating these animals to a state distinction would legitimize their presence, hinder any efforts to control their destruction of environments, and be detrimental to other species. Numerous studies firmly document the negative impact feral horses and burros’ overpopulation continues to inflict:
- Populations are doubling every four years.
- Populations are exceeding ten times the appropriate management levels
- Feral horses outcompete other species for water.
- Overpopulation of feral horses has been listed as the second greatest impact to wildlife conservation in Nevada
- The budget to corral captured horses is more than 10 times the amount allotted for other endangered species.
Opposition to this bill has been led by the Property and Environmental Research Center (PERC), the Wild Sheep Foundation, and the Northern Nevada Coalition for Wildlife. In all, 23 groups have signed on to urge Assemblywoman Selean Torres, Chair of the Assembly Governmental Affairs Committee, to table this bill. Rebbeca Mills, retired Superintendent of Great Basin National Park, and Kenneth E. Mayer, former Director of Nevada Department of Wildlife both have signed in opposition to SB90.
SB90 will next be heard in the Nevada Assembly Committee on Government Affairs and, if voted favorably, go to a final floor vote for passage. It needs to be tabled as it does not address the ecological concerns of many studies and wildlife professionals and would make further management of feral horses and burros immensely more difficult.
Follow: SB90 Progress
WATCH: Horse Rich & Dirt Poor
CONTACT: Assemblywoman Selena Torres and the Assembly Government Affairs Committee (13 members and 1 general committee email address) to express your concern for this bill and to ask her to table SB90.
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