Should the feral horse become Nevada's state animal?

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Every year, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rounds up hundreds of feral horses across Nevada, corralling them and controlling them in an attempt to halt the habitat destruction they cause. In fact, the last round-up relocated over a thousand feral horses and treated 40 mares with fertility control, which will likely be repeated again this year. Overpopulation of feral horses in the West results in degradation to sensitive riparian areas and overgrazing on key food sources that other wildlife like sage grouse, antelope and mule deer rely upon. Balancing herd size to sustain all wildlife is the goal of these targeted wild horse roundups.

In January, SB90 was introduced. If approved, this legislation would designate the “wild mustang” as the new state animal for Nevada. This is a designation that many are against because of the potential impact this designation would have on future feral horse management programs. Specifically, GOHUNT, the Property and Environmental Research Center, the Wild Sheep Foundation and the Northern Nevada Coalition for Wildlife are against SB90.

Under the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, the government is required to protect, manage and control wild, free-roaming horses and burros found on public lands. This Act was established as a way to preserve the feral horses and to help create a “thriving natural ecological balance on the public lands.” However, over the years, the Act has been challenged in courts (up to the Supreme Court level) and provisions have altered the bill slightly over the years that modify the way horses are rounded up and the methods behind the sale or adoption of the wild horses.

As of March 1, 2023, there were approximately 82,883 wild horses and burros nationwide, according to BLM. The majority of them are found in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. Herds grow at an average rate of 20% annually, doubling in size every four years, which often means more animals than the allotted land can handle. Preserving or protecting wild horses and designating them as a state symbol could create even more of an ecological imbalance as wild horse populations increase and more oppose round-ups and other methods to keep the number of animals on the western landscape in check. 

According to HOWL for Wildlife, SB90 is on-deck to be heard during the next Nevada Assembly Committee on Government Affairs and, if approved, will go onto a final floor vote for passage. If you are against this bill, contact Assemblywoman Selena Torres and the Assembly Government Affairs Committee and ask them to table SB90.

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