Update May 21, 2011: The Nevada Senate Natural Resources Committee voted not to pass A.B. 329. Chairperson Mark Manenda told committee members he did not see the point of the legislation.
He said that he is concerned about unintended consequences.
The senator made his comments in a letter read into the record during a committee hearing yesterday. The committee agreed to send the bill to the Public Lands Counsel for further study. The idea would be to come up with an agreement with the BLM regarding water for wild horses and burros. If there is no agreement, the bill can be re-introduced in 2012, the next legislative session.
The PLC is not likely to meet until September. We will keep you posed on any developments.
The point of the bill, of course, is to try to allow ranchers to fence off land to prohibit wild horses and burros from having access to water. The bill would also have tried to authorize the state otherwise to deny an appropriation of any water to these animals.
For more on this bill, read Animal Law Coalition’s reports below.
Update May 14, 2011: The Nevada Senate Natural Resources Committee held a hearing yesterday on A.B. 329, a bill that would deny wild horses and burros an appropriation of water.
Opponents outnumbered supporters 3 to 1. That may be why the committee took no action on the bill.
Supporters included the Nevada Farm Bureau and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. NFB executive vice president Doug Bussleman claimed the bill would not prevent the wild horses and burros from having access to drinking water. This despite the plain language of the bill. Other supporters acknowledged the purpose of the bill was to prevent wild horses and burros from overtaking the range and protect riparian sources from them.
That’s not all. A national real estate firm has said should this bill pass, it will no longer hold its annual meeting for 8,000 people in Las Vegas.
The threat to Nevada’s tourism dollars could become substantial should the state’s legislature and governor decide to pretend wild horses and burros are not "wildlife" and not entitled to water.
It’s a horrific way to treat any animal, let alone one that is supposed to be protected by federal law. Nevada should not be able on the one hand to draw tourists to the state with ads about its fabled wild horses and burros, and on the other, deprive these animals of water.
Original report: An insidious bill is making its way through the Nevada legislature that would re-define "wildlife" to exclude wild horses and burros in the appropriation of water. This means in the state’s view, wild horses and burros would not be entitled to water.
A.B. 329 has already passed the Assembly by a 35-7 vote. It is now pending in the state Senate Natural Resources Committee.
The bill is the result of cattle ranchers who formed a committee last year to devise a way to remove wild horses and burros from public lands. Their solution: remove the animals for using water or deny them water. But whether or not the state of Nevada choose to call these animals "wildlife", they are still federally protected under the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, which assures their right to "beneficial use" of water.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1976 (Kleppe vs. New Mexico) that "where state laws conflict with the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, or with other legislation passed pursuant to the Property Clause, the law is clear: the state laws must recede … "