Thursday, August 25, 2016

Nevadans, not DC bureaucrats, should regulate our backyard

by Rex Steninger 

The op-ed by Brian Sexton ("One View: Keep public lands in public hands," Aug. 8) demands a response. I, too, was at the recent Interim Legislative Committee on Public Lands held in Elko and can’t begin to understand how Mr. Sexton could have been “appalled” at how the federal land managers were treated. They were treated with the utmost respect and I am sure that the Nevada Legislature has transcripts for those who want to check for themselves.

The main cause for concern at the hearing was the exploding number of horses on the public lands. Several grazing allotments in Elko County currently have 10 times the number of horses deemed the appropriate management levels by the BLM. Several ranchers have been forced to take “nonuse” on their allotment because the horses have consumed all the forage. Some allotments haven’t been used by cattle for 10 years and the lack of forage also affects wildlife.

On top of that, there is no immediate plan to address the problem and the horse herds typically double every four years. The allotments currently hold more than 4,000 horses and, with no action, that number will double to 8,000 in four years. The ranchers will be forced off the range and the wildlife and horses will die horrible deaths from starvation and thirst.

Those are cold, hard facts, not “half-truths” or “political rhetoric directed at making the BLM and USFS seem incompetent” as Mr. Sexton charged. The forest service did come under criticism from the committee because it still had not determined the appropriate management levels on the public lands it administers, even though Congress had ordered it to do so 40 years ago. It is easy to see how that criticism makes the agency seem incompetent, but that certainly isn’t the fault of the legislative committee.

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