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Nye County bill calls for ‘humane treatment’ in wild herd roundups

Priscilla Lane of Friends of the Wild Horses and Burros has spent years advocating on behalf of these icons of the American West and her efforts recently bore fruit, with a new bill passed by Nye County aimed at ensuring humane treatment during all federal roundup activities.

No. 2023-11 was at first proposed as a ban on all helicopter and motorized roundup methods. However, Nye County commissioners took issue with the language that was initially presented last month and they decided to postpone a decision until the bill could be amended.

Commissioner Frank Carbone was one of those who worked to adjust the bill to satisfy all parties.

“I have modified it to be more where the board of county commissioner wanted to be at,” Carbone stated. “We talk more about the humane roundup of the animals… We want to make sure the animals are being handled humanely…There is also a U.S. code that talks about not really using helicopters to move these animals. So I’m hoping that eventually enough folks will come to us with enough information that we can use for legal matters.”

Although her bill was not passed as originally drafted, an obviously emotional Lane said she was extremely thankful to the county for its support.

The bill lays out the authority of the commission to take the action proposed, granted to it pursuant to Nevada Revised Statute per Dillon’s Rule, and details previous actions by both the commission and the federal government in regard to wild horse and burro management.

In 1971 Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, under which wild horses and burros are considered to be, “…living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.”

As part of the implementation of that act, the federal Bureau of Land Management created the Wild Horse and Burro Program, which included roundups that are meant to control the herd population and maintain public safety.

Over the years, scores of allegations of mistreatment have been lodged against the BLM and as noted in the Nye County’s bill, the American Wild Horse Campaign and Wild Horse Education have both documented evidenced of “…inhumane acts during roundup procedures perpetrated by the BLM.”

In 2019, former President Donald Trump, with bipartisan support, signed into law the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, in which it states, “It is important that we combat these acts of cruelty, which are totally unacceptable to a civilized society.”

In addition, in June, 2020 the Nye County Commission had unanimously approved a resolution declaring that the county does not support the BLM’s use of helicopters in its roundup activities.

“Whereas, the BLM spends multi-millions of taxpayer dollars for these helicopter roundups, across the U.S., there has been much public comment given to the BLM asking for the heinous and sadistic roundups to stop and suggestions made that are much more financially responsible, to which the BLM has turned a deaf ear,” the bill reads.

“Now, therefore, the Board of County Commissioners of the county of Nye, state of Nevada, do hereby ordain: Nye County is insisting that the BLM conduct the roundup of wild horses and burros in a human manner at all times of a roundup; 18 US Code 47 - Use of aircraft or motor vehicles to hunt certain wild horses or burros: Whoever uses an aircraft or a motorized vehicle to hunt, for the purpose or capturing or killing, any wild unbranded horse, mare, colt or burros running at large on any of the public lands or ranges shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both,” the bill concludes.

Carbone made the motion to adopt the bill as amended, with a second from commissioner Donna Cox. The motion passed with all in favor.

The effective date of the bill is Monday, Oct. 30.

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