For years, the Bureau of Land Management has done a miserable job of managing wild horse populations in the West. Thanks to that dereliction of duty, the BLM recently informed ranchers in northeastern Nevada that there will be further restrictions on grazing permits because wild horses have overrun certain areas, compromising the health of range lands.
The move could suck $1.8 million out of the Elko County economy. A cynic might suggest that all of this is no accident, given federal land managers have been squeezing ranchers for years.
At any rate, Gov. Brian Sandoval on Tuesday said he may go to court to force the feds to more aggressively address the wild horse issue. He found support from Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation. “Unfortunately, the BLM has not lived up to its end of the bargain” on this issue, said Rep. Cresent Hardy, adding that the agency’s failure could “rob hard-working Nevadans of their livelihoods.”
This is all well and good, as far as it goes. But this is a symptom of a larger issue.
Environmentalists routinely dismiss concerns about Washington overseeing some 85 percent of Nevada’s acreage, arguing the federal government’s vast resources make it a more appropriate manager of these land holdings than the local yokels. But is it really so fantastical to posit that if these lands were under the domain of state or local interests, the wild horse problem would have been sufficiently confronted by now?
Instead, ranchers in Elko County — some of whom have been working the land for generations — now face financial strain thanks to the inaction of federal bureaucrats sitting in their comfortable beltway offices more than 2,000 miles away.